Cameron is in trouble over Europe: we can win this debate


9:10 am - January 11th 2013

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by Ivo Petkovski

David Cameron has suffered two heavy blows this week, as both the USA and Germany strongly criticised his comments on the UK’s future role in the EU.

This follows weeks of media speculation about Cameron’s upcoming speech on Europe – which even Nick Clegg wants no part of – where he’s expected to say he will use a renegotiation of the Lisbon treaty to repatriate political powers from Brussels. That is, provided he gets a majority in 2015.

Obama’s assistant secretary for European affairs, Philip Gordon, reminded Cameron on Wednesday that the ‘special relationship’ would be considerably less important to the USA if the UK decided to break away from Europe.

Yesterday, the chair of Germany’s European affairs committee, Gunther Krichbaum – who is visiting the UK this week – waded in to the fray, pointing out that ‘you cannot create a political future if you are blackmailing other states’.

Cameron imagines that the UK can emulate Switzerland, and enjoy the benefits of the common market while staying out of the political arena. But there’s no reason to think that the treatment enjoyed by Switzerland or Norway – who, after all, might eventually fully join – will be extended to a state which undermines the whole EU project at a critical point in its history by flouncing off.

There’s something very cynical and self-serving in seeking to renegotiate the terms now, when the EU is in turmoil and its future is uncertain.

There’s a case to be made that an in/out EU referendum at some point in the future a good idea – if nothing else, it would put the question to rest for another few decades, until the European project evolves into its next stage. And after the dust settles on the Eurozone crisis, it will be possible to see what – if anything – we’d be voting to join or leave.

But between now and then, EU supporters need to make their case clearly and loudly: further political integration with the other members is a clear path towards eventually plugging European tax havens, which would reduce the risk of capital flight, which would enable us to use progressive taxation.

And – as both Clegg and the Obama administration pointed out this week – on all the major global questions, the UK without Europe will always be on the margins.

The consistent failure to make these arguments heard – over decades – has created the current toxic landscape, where the right wing media froth daily about ‘unelected bureaucrats from Brussels’, and otherwise sane people mistake UKIP for a legitimate protest vote.

As anger mounts over the ineffectiveness and toe-curling unfairness of the austerity program, and Cameron’s Tories lag behind Labour in the polls, Cameron clearly needs all the support he can muster. But by trying to harness the baseless prejudice and deluded Empire-nostalgia that fuels most Euro-skepticism, he has made himself look ridiculous in front of the whole world.


Ivo Petkovski writes the I to the Vizzo blog and for Guardian CIF

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Reader comments


EU supporters need to make their case clearly and loudly: further political integration with the other members is a clear path towards eventually plugging European tax havens, which would reduce the risk of capital flight, which would enable us to use progressive taxation.

“A vote to stay in the EU is a vote for higher taxes”. Sounds like a winning slogan.

FWIW I think Cameron’s real concern is to protect the Conservative vote at the next general election from inroads by UKIP.

I believe that he understands perfectly well that the EU will still be there, making decisions about the Single Market, if Britain leaves so that Britain will have no voice at the negotiating table when the decisions are reached. It cannot be assumed that some of the remaining 26 EU member state governments won’t play hardball for reasons of their own domestic politics.

That is a hard fact of life which in no way undermines a widespread sentiment in Britain that many politicians in the EU simply don’t understand the hard economic issues of integrating European markets and, especially, the challenges of creating a monetary union, with diverse national economies, when the conditions for an optimal currency area are absent.

Since what happens in EU economies affects UK trade prospects, that is a good reason for keeping a seat at the EU negotiating table to articulate concerns when necessary.

3. Ivo Petkovski

@TimJ

‘A vote to stay in the EU is a vote for higher taxes…for the super rich and for multinational corporations’

Now THAT sounds like a winning slogan!

How much negotiating clout will Britain alone have in the resumed Doha trade round or in pressing anti-trust competition policy issues?

@ Ivo

You are clearly insane, or some dyed in the wool socialist. Possibly both. Your article and reality don’t intersect at any point.

“A vote to stay in the EU is a vote for higher taxes…for the super rich and for multinational corporations”

Is nonsense. Just look at the fiasco in France. Or how do you think economic competativeness, and therefore growth will fare if taxes on people and corporations continue to climb. It’s a sure-fire way of exporting industry.

“But there’s no reason to think that the treatment enjoyed by Switzerland or Norway – who, after all, might eventually fully join ….”

Seriously? The Swiss especially have never had lower public opinion of the EU. The pro-EU politicians over there have had to give up on the idea.

“Yesterday, the chair of Germany’s European affairs committee, Gunther Krichbaum – who is visiting the UK this week – waded in to the fray, pointing out that ‘you cannot create a political future if you are blackmailing other states’.”

You fundamentally misunderstand what is going on here. You will hear more and more of this kind of language, as Britain leaving the EU fundamentally threatens the EU and Brussels. If the UK leaves and regains freedoms, whilst not losing access to the common market (which it won’t – the UK is a major export market for Europe), there is a significant chance a lot of other states will follow. Political power will shift back from the unelected parliament in Brussels to elected national governments. This scares the willys out of them.

“until the European project evolves into its next stage”

By which I assume you mean a federal Europe? I’m pretty sure there would be strong opposition from all walks of life to being governed from Europe, and the democratic deficit it will create.

“But by trying to harness the baseless prejudice and deluded Empire-nostalgia that fuels most Euro-skepticism, he has made himself look ridiculous in front of the whole world.”

Baseless prejudice? Brussels has shown itself to be perfectly willing to ignore democratic mandates. It has also shown itself to be inept and wasteful bordering on the corrupt. Empire nostalgia isn’t what concerns people – it’s the ability too democratically change our leaders and have our voices heard. Something pretty near impossible in Europe, given the MEPs we do vote for are fairly powerless, and leaders are appointed not elected. Cameron hasn’t made himself look ridiculous (though you have, with this pro-EU polemic without base in reality) – he’s made a lot of people with vested interests in furthering the European agenda very scared. It won’t be Greece that brings the collapse of the Euro. It will be the UK renegotiating better terms or leaving, and others quickly following suit leaving a weak and unstable core.

The slightly sneering tone of this article reminds me of what Orwell had to say about the intellectual “elite” in 1941.

“In intention, at any rate, the English intelligentsia are Europeanized. They take their cookery from Paris and their opinions from Moscow. In the general patriotism of the country they form a sort of island of dissident thought. England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse racing to suet puddings. It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during ‘God save the King’ than of stealing from a poor box. All through the critical years many left-wingers were chipping away at English morale, trying to spread an outlook that was sometimes squashily pacifist, sometimes violently pro-Russian, but always anti-British. ”

http://www.k-1.com/Orwell/site/work/essays/lionunicorn.html

Meanwhile I suggest that the case for staying in the EU is not best made by those who confidently and (as ever) condescendingly asserted that the euro would be a rip-roaring success.

7. Ivo Petkovski

@Tyler

‘how do you think economic competitiveness, and therefore growth will fare if taxes on people and corporations continue to climb. It’s a sure-fire way of exporting industry.’

But competitiveness and growth on the current model result in obscene inequalities. The overwhelming majority don’t benefit from either, so in my view something has to give. And ‘exporting industry’ is exactly what a federal Europe would ultimately prevent – the more political power the EU has, the more pressure it can bring to bear on European tax havens. Not all business can migrate to the Cayman Islands or Bermuda, and Europe as a bloc in the world can – in time – pressure these offshore havens too.

‘Political power will shift back from the unelected parliament in Brussels to elected national governments.’

But that would be a step backwards, and I’m not sure why you seem so keen to see it happen. We are entering an age of dinosaurs, with China, the US and India set to dominate the global agenda. Culturally, politically and in pretty much every other sense, the European countries have many more similarities than differences.

The 2008 crisis showed that we need global financial regulation for a global market, but what makes that impossible – at the moment – is the absence of political unity between countries, let alone continents. A federal Europe would solve that problem on the continent itself, and can push to solve the problem on a global scale. What else? Does anyone still seriously believe that the market will regulate itself, for the benefit of all?

‘I’m pretty sure there would be strong opposition from all walks of life to being governed from Europe, and the democratic deficit it will create.’

This idea of being governed ‘from’ Europe is a massive, and common, red herring – we wouldn’t be governed ‘from’ anywhere, we would have a weighty say in how the whole entity is governed. That’s always been the case in the past, and it’s not set to change, unless we leave. And there’s only a democratic deficit at the moment because of the near-total apathy in the UK and other member states – the same apathy that’s allowed a few knee-jerk Eurosceptic tropes to dominate the whole discussion.

cjcj: “Meanwhile I suggest that the case for staying in the EU is not best made by those who confidently and (as ever) condescendingly asserted that the euro would be a rip-roaring success.”

I surely agree with that – although they most also probably claim also that: 2+2=4, and I’m reluctant to reject that.

Btw I’m a veteran of online debates about EMU c. 2000 when the sanity of any who doubted the wisdom of joining was questioned by Euro ethusiasts.

My point of enlightenment came in 1996 on reading the late Rudi Dornbusch (professor of international economics at the MIT) on: Euro fantasies, in Foreign Affairs September/October 1996 (pay barrier)
http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/52431/rudiger-dornbusch/euro-fantasies-common-currency-as-panacea

The essential issues are recapitulated in the late editions of his mainstream undergraduate text on Macroeconomics (McGraw-Hill). A critical issue, observed by Dornbusch and persistently overlooked as a condition of maintaining EMU stability is this:

“Prof Paul de Grauwe from the London School of Economics (LSE) said austerity measures imposed on the Club Med with no offsetting stimulus by the creditors was creating a contractionary bias to the whole system and and leading to a ‘very dangerous situation’. ” [Telegraph 15 November 2012]

The current standard academic text on the subject is De Grauwe: The economics of monetary union (OUP, 9th edition), not propaganda texts from Euro enthusiasts.

@ Ivo

You are insane.

“But competitiveness and growth on the current model result in obscene inequalities.”

So what are you suggesting? Communism? I suppose people will be more equal when there are no jobs. Equally poor though.

“And ‘exporting industry’ is exactly what a federal Europe would ultimately prevent – the more political power the EU has, the more pressure it can bring to bear on European tax havens.”

Not sure why you focus on tax havens. I was talking about industry. Keep cranking taxes up and it simply becomes cheaper to move your business, and it’s jobs, somewhere else.

“But that would be a step backwards”

Why? Because we *have* to be part of a global super power? If anyone is talking about Empire-nostalgia it is you. Take what you would normally describe as some of the nicer places to live in the world, like Australia, New Zealand, Norway or Switzerland and they seem to do pretty well without being part of some huge federal block.

I also quite like the idea of electing my leaders, rather than having unelected elites foisting themselves on us.

“The 2008 crisis showed that we need global financial regulation for a global market”

There are and has been plenty of global financial regulation, pre-2008. You seem to assume that government regulation can solve all problems. This is clearly nonsense. Markets by their very definition aren’t perfect either, but they are competative, which tends to reward best practice in the long term.

“A federal Europe would solve that problem on the continent itself”

Really? Given that at the moment the EU can barely tie it’s own shoelaces, and the people in charge are pretty incompetant, you think that making Europe a federal state will suddenly make it fantastically well governed?

“This idea of being governed ‘from’ Europe is a massive, and common, red herring – we wouldn’t be governed ‘from’ anywhere”

No, we would be governed by a committee sitting in Brussels or Strassbourg. One in which we have no direct power of election or recall. I certainly don’t remember voting for Barroso or Van Rompuy.

“And there’s only a democratic deficit at the moment because of the near-total apathy in the UK and other member states”

See above again, but don’t forget the EU’s tendency to ignore votes or referendums which go against it.

Ivo, you seem to want a massive, centrally governed socialist state supposedly for the good of the people, but governed by a number of elites. This has been tried before, with terrible consequences. I don’t know if it is power you crave yourself, of simply the ability to take other people’s money and distribute it as you see fit, but far from being liberal, free or democratic, you are authoritarian and illiberal. if nothing else, it is clear the Euro and the EU has been an unmitigated disaster, not least for those living in Spain and Greece, but you seem happy to ignore or even crush the plight of the very people you claim to care about simply to perpetuate this mad federal idealism.

“Take what you would normally describe as some of the nicer places to live in the world, like Australia, New Zealand, Norway or Switzerland and they seem to do pretty well without being part of some huge federal block.”

Those economies are substantially smaller than Britain’s. The trading relations of Norway and Switzerland with the EU are what the EU decides unilaterally.

The trading relations of Australia and New Zealand are mainly within the Pacific rim nowadays.

Britain is hugely dependent on trade with the Eurozone and we can’t assume that some of the remaining 26 members of the EU if Britain leaves won’t want to play hardball. Leaving will create enormous uncertainties for business in Britain which look to the EU for sales.

In the news today, Honda is cutting 500 jobs in Swindon because of depressed car sales in Europe although Britain’s car market is fairly buoyant. The other Japanese car manufacturers with plants in Britain also depend on sales to Europe so I doubt their employment and investment decisions will be unaffected if Britain leaves the EU. And that will have a knock-on effects on the respective supply chains. What will happen to the City of London’s financial markets if Britain leaves and there is no British representative at the table when decisions are made at the instance of French proposals that Euro trades must be located in the Eurozone?

In the news today, according to the NIESR, it is looking very likely that Britain’s economy is headed for a triple-dip recession. Posturing politics about leaving the EU won’t be doing much to restore business confidence and revive business investment.

It’s not been a good few days to be a British Eurosceptic.

There you were, your myths and fear-mongering dominant in the British debate, and then along comes reality in the form of the US, the CBI and Germany to completely puncture your worldview and dominance.

Reading Tyler’s rants reminds me of Jon Stewart’s skewering of Clint Eastwood’s empty chair cameo at the dreadful GOP convention in September.

The Europhobes are screaming hysterically at their own empty chair, only this time it symbolises the British Europhobe version of the EU. That this EU conforms not at all to the EU of the real world is exactly the same as for the GOP and their view of Obama.

I don’t think the Europhobes are going to get what they want from here. Like the GOP they’re too extreme, battling what they believe to be a malevolent entity that for the rest of us observers just doesn’t exist.

12. Ivo Petkovski

@Tyler

‘There are and has been plenty of global financial regulation, pre-2008. You seem to assume that government regulation can solve all problems. This is clearly nonsense. Markets by their very definition aren’t perfect either, but they are competative, which tends to reward best practice in the long term.’

Not all problems, but this one, yes. Not sure why ‘government regulation’ always seems to be understood as a bad thing, or how anyone can still hold to the idea that unregulated markets make it all ok in the end. 2008 showed us that markets left alone will accumulate practically all the wealth to a tiny fraction of the population, who can then resort to extreme and insane measures to multiply their capital, and when they bring the whole system crashing down, they can hold countries to ransom to bail them out, with the threat of leaving. That leaves us in the current austerity nightmare, with the worst off paying for the continuation of the very system that made them the ‘worst-off’ in the 1st place.

Petrovski:

There’s a case to be made that an in/out EU referendum at some point in the future a good idea – if nothing else, it would put the question to rest for another few decades, until the European project evolves into its next stage.

Three points:

1 – Cameron is not going to offer an in/out EU referendum…unless he’s really in very deep trouble.

2- Anything less than an in/out referendum won’t please anyone. Moreover, why bother with a vote if Cameron thinks he’s got a good deal? He could just ratify it via Parliament in the usual fashion. (Pause) Oh, yes – he might not be able to because he’s got an increasingly Europhobic Tory party regards anything ‘EU’ as part of a conspiracy to destroy the UK As We Know It…one straight banana at a time.

3 – Even if if a referendum resulted in an ‘in’ vote, it would only settle it until ‘Dan Hannan’s Daughter’ (so to speak) starts bleating about how she never had a chance to decide whether the UK should be part of the EU. Whether there’s a ‘next stage’ for the European project would be irrelevant: the Tory/Ukip nexus want out, and they’ll just keep trying until they get what they want.

14. Northern Worker

So we stay in the EU because President Obama and some German guy say we should. Obviously we should stay in.

Labour kept Britain out of the euro. Labour MPs have elected three Eurosceptics out of three to represent them on the party’s National Executive Committee, and one of those has voted against every Treaty since the first one. The only other candidate was no more pro-EU than those three.

One third of members of the Parliamentary Labour Party have voted for it to be chaired by John Cryer, an outspoken and dynastic advocate of withdrawal from the EU. Ed Balls is Shadow Chancellor. Jon Cruddas heads the Policy Review.

One of the places for Labour’s 2010 intake to see and be seen is at the Morning Star Readers’ and Supporters’ Group, reading and supporting Britain’s original Eurosceptic newspaper. Labour’s principal Eurofederalist has had to resign for fiddling his expenses.

Ed Miliband has already defeated the Government over the EU Budget, without a single Labour rebel. The number of Conservative rebels was fewer than the number of Liberal Democrat MPs. Miliband should keep up momentum by proposing legislation with six simple clauses.

First, the restoration of the supremacy of British over EU law, and its use to repatriate agricultural policy and to reclaim our historic fishing rights (200 miles, or to median line) in accordance with international law.

Secondly, the requirement that, in order to have any effect in the United Kingdom, all EU law pass through both Houses of Parliament as if it had originated in one or other of them.

Thirdly, the requirement that British Ministers adopt the show-stopping Empty Chair Policy until such time as the Council of Ministers meets in public and publishes an Official Report akin to Hansard.

Fourthly, the disapplication in the United Kingdom of any ruling of the European Court of Justice or of the European Court of Human Rights unless confirmed by a resolution of the House of Commons, the High Court of Parliament.

Fifthly, the disapplication in the United Kingdom of anything passed by the European Parliament but not by the majority of those MEPs certified as politically acceptable by one or more seat-taking members of the House of Commons.

And sixthly, the provision for a referendum on the question, “Do you wish the United Kingdom to remain a member of the European Union?” The first five would come into effect at the same time as this provision, and would not be conditional on that referendum’s outcome.

The Liberal Democrats set great store by decentralisation, transparency and democracy, and they represent many areas badly affected by the Common Fisheries Policy. The Liberals were staunch free traders who were as opposed the Soviet Bloc as they were to Far Right regimes in Latin America and Southern Africa, while the SDP’s reasons for secession from Labour included both calls for protectionism and the rise of antidemocratic extremism. (Both the Liberal Party and, on a much smaller scale, the SDP still exist, and both are now highly critical of the EU.)

The SDLP takes the Labour Whip, the Alliance Party is allied to the Lib Dems, the Greens are staunchly anti-EU, so is the DUP, and the one other Unionist is close to Labour. The SNP and Plaid Cymru can hardly believe in independence for Scotland, greater autonomy for Wales, yet vote against the return to Westminster of the powers that they wish to transfer thence to Edinburgh or Cardiff; the SNP also has the fishing issue to consider. Even any remaining Conservatives who wanted to certify the European People’s Party as politically acceptable might be brought on board.

Leaving those fabled creatures, backbench Tory Eurosceptics. It is high time that their bluff was called.

Just to be clear on what you are saying. Renegotiating to increase Brussels power is legitimate, but renegotiating to repatriate powers is always illegitimate, is that correct? If that is the correct inference from your position does that not make the relationship rather unbalanced?

” Obama’s assistant secretary for European affairs, Philip Gordon, reminded Cameron on Wednesday that the ‘special relationship’ would be considerably less important to the USA if the UK decided to break away from Europe. ”

Maybe you could be so kind to provide a list of reasons why that would be a bad thing. Struggling to think of any. Have the left not be saying for decades that the UK relationship with the US should be more distant? If the UK withdrew from the EU, and there was a cooling of the US/UK relationship. Is that not what many on the left have wanted for decades?

The US are not our allies and never have been. The US like every other nation on earth serve their own interests and ally only with others if they see advantage in that relationship. Moreover, the interests of the state and the interests of the people are two different things. The vast majority of the 311 million Americans could not care less if the UK is in the EU or not. Palmerston sorted this out a lot time ago and it applies to all nations.

” We have no eternal allies and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and these interests it is our duty to follow. ”

What the people in the UK must decide is whether their interests are served through continuing as a member or leaving. Only they can decide and I don’t know what they will decide. We know what the CBI and business will say and it will be very funny to see the left allying with them. However, Barroso, Van Rompuy and the revolting Branson can’t make this decision. My suspicion is when it comes to the crunch the propaganda and scaremongering will see people succumb to status quo bias. That is what normally happens when people are faced with change.

The US government which is a different thing to the US people say they want they want the UK in the EU, effectively as a proxy to influence the direction in a way favourable to US foreign policy. If the US want to shape the policy and direction of the EU in a way favourable to the US. Why do they not just join the organisation themselves? The reason is because they do not want to lose US sovereignty, but do not mind the UK losing their sovereignty.

The intervention of the Obama administration –

You lot would normally be creaming yourselves in delight if the Americans criticised us for something?

Why the change on this issue?

@hmm

Philip Gordon is only expressing the view of every American Administration since the 1940s. There is no “Anglosphere”, just as there is no “Special Relationship”. There never has been, and there never will be.

It is quite comical to watch people who previously believed that America could never be wrong about anything, but who have changed their tune now that she has a black President.

Take a look at yesterday’s Telegraph Blogs. Hilarious. And I mean above the line, not below it, where a lot people always have understood the real world.

I still have ghastly memories from 1962 of marking dozens of uni student essays on Britain’s first application in 1961 to join the then EEC, made by the Macmillan government of the time. Since then, I’ve more or less particpated, in one way or another, with the public debate. What strikes me is the increasing fanaticism of the Eurosceptics.

As a long-standing opponent of Britain joining the Eurozone for reasons cited @8, I believe that degree of Euroscepticism has been fully vindicated by events.

What horrifies me about recent manifestations of Euroscepticism in Britain is that there appear to be no downsides at all to leaving the EU – no concerns about what will happen to manufacturers depending on sales to the EU, no concerns about the consequences for the City’s financial markets. No concerns about what will happen to business confidence.

We really can’t assume that some of the remaining 26 EU governments won’t play hardball if Britain leaves. By later reports today, Honda is making 800 job cuts, not 500 as reported earlier, because of currently depressed sales to Eurozone countries. There will be a lot more of job cutting if Britain were to leave the EU.

20. Ivo Petkovski

@David Lindsey

I agree that Euro-scepticism isn’t confined just to a few tory back benchers, but your selective list makes it sound like literally everyone in parliament can’t wait to withdraw. Plus putting them all squarely in the Eurosceptic camp is too simplistic – it’s a spectrum of opinion, from a vague unease on one end to Peter Bone-style implacability on the other. Plus you have to allow for opportunism – in a general climate of populist, unexamined Euroscepticism some politicians will just say what sounds good at that moment.

The picture you present is pretty distorted. All three parties are broadly committed to the EU – for Labour and Lib Dems, nearly unanimously – even though they all have dissidents.

Your six point plan can really be truncated to just one point: immediate withdrawal from the EU and reversal of any already-implemented EU directives. But you don’t mention what happens after that? We would alienate every ally we have in the world, seriously damage our trade prospects – with potentially disastrous consequences, as Bob says – but in return we get the return of historic fishing rights?

With a lot of hardline Euroscepticism, there seems to be a veneer of pragmatism over what is really a guttural reaction, a sort of instinctive rejection of any ‘encroachment of sovereignty’. All the human rights debates sound hollow – who genuinely cares about whether prisoners can vote? – the reall issue is about ‘them’ telling ‘us’ what to do. It’s fundamentally irrational, like ‘pragmatic’ arguments for having a monarch, and I suspect most of the vocal Eurosceptics realise that.

@Ivo Petkovski

And what I propose would bring them all on board.

Simon Hughes, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, has this evening informed the Any Questions audience that his party had never been in favour of joining the euro at the given time rather than merely in principle, and that “We are a lot better off with our own currency, thank you very much.” But then, he abstained on Maastricht, while Sir Nick Harvey, as he now is, went so far as to vote against it.

I am not convinced that most Lib Dems are all that pro-EU at all. I have a strong suspicion that they are more like the characters in Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday. One by one, each of the members of an anarchist cell turns out to be an undercover policeman.

Vicious campaigners though they undeniably are, there really are Lib Dems, doubtless clear majorities of their members and voters, and probably even of their MPs and Peers, who believe profoundly in the election, appropraite or otherwise, of pretty much everything that exercises any sort of power.

In absolute openness and freedom of information, prudent or otherwise. In the highest possible degree, sensible or otherwise, of decentralisation and localism. In the heritage of uncompromising opposition to political extremism everywhere from Moscow to Pretoria abroad, and from the Communist Party to the Monday Club at home.

In (unlike me) the tradition of anti-protectionism against everyone from nineteenth-century agricultural Tories to 1970s industrial trade unionists. In the rural Radicalism that has always stood against the pouring of lucre into the pockets of the landlords. And in the interests of the arc of Lib Dem fishing seats from Cornwall via North Norfolk, Berwick, and North East Fife, to the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

Mild to strong Eurosceptics, including a goodly number of the latter, probably keep quiet within the Lib Dems because they assume that they are a tiny minority. But I bet that they are not. In fact, I bet that they are not really a minority at all. And now, they have to make legislative and executive decisions.

Ed Davey is in the Cabinet, while the similarly non-Eurofanatical David Heath and Norman Lamb are on the cusp of it, with Alistair Carmichael as the party’s Chief and the Government’s Deputy Chief Whip. Heath, as Deputy Leader of the House, also has an important role in progressing business.

The Party President, Tim Farron, is very much of the same mind as Simon Hughes, on this as on most other things. David Laws belongs in the same prison as anyone who had stolen that much in Housing Benefit. But the fact remains that he is not.

And that’s just the Lib Dems.

“With a lot of hardline Euroscepticism, there seems to be a veneer of pragmatism over what is really a guttural reaction, a sort of instinctive rejection of any ‘encroachment of sovereignty’. ”

Successive British governments set out to join the EEC in the 1960s for solid, pragmatic reasons. The current wave of Euroscepticism has more to do with what Krugman has called “policy entrepreneuring” by policy wonks looking for work opportunities from the fallout in the event of Britain’s departure from the EU. Think of the consultancy commissions from all those businesses worried about selling onto the EU as Britain leaves.

23. Ivo Petkovski

@Richard W

“If the UK withdrew from the EU, and there was a cooling of the US/UK relationship. Is that not what many on the left have wanted for decades?”

I can’t speak for ‘the Left’, but I wouldn’t necessarily advocate a cooling of the US relationship, more a shift in focus to Europe. We could have stayed out of the wars in the last decade, and perhaps would have mustered a stiffer resistance to the current austerity ideology.

Ivo Petovski: “We could have stayed out of the wars in the last decade”

Britain became involved in the Afghanistan war in 2001 because of NATO commitments dating back to 1948, which long preceded Britain’s memebership of the EEC. Many other EU member states, which are also members of NATO, have done little to respect their NATO commitments.

The reason Britain became involved in the Iraq war in 2003 has more to do with Blair and the Blair-Bush relationshop than with anything else. Note that Britain’s governments of 1964-70 and later refused to become involved in America’s war in Vietnam despite pressure from Lyndon Johnson.

25. Richard Carey

@ Richard W,

bravo.

Richard W

“What the people in the UK must decide is whether their interests are served through continuing as a member or leaving.”

What isn’t perhaps appreciated in that the repeating calls for renegotiating Britain’s membership of the EU and national referendums creates uncertainty for businesses in Britain dependent on access to EU markets. The rational response of such businesses is to postpone or restrict committing investment in their businesses until the issue is settled.

Btw Tony Blair appeared to be very committed to maintaining a special relationship with the US by supporting the invasion of Iraq in 2003 after claiming in 2002 that Britain was threatened by weapons of mass destruction which could be used with 45 minutes of a command from Saddam Hussein.

“Tony Blair has rejected calls for an official inquiry into the government’s claims about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Speaking at the G8 summit in Evian [in June 2003], Mr Blair said he stood ‘100%’ by the evidence shown to the public about Iraq’s alleged weapons programmes.

“‘Frankly, the idea that we doctored intelligence reports in order to invent some notion about a 45-minute capability for delivering weapons of mass destruction is completely and totally false,’ he said.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2955036.stm

After the invasion, no such weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq.

27. Ivo Petkovski

@Richard W

“Just to be clear on what you are saying. Renegotiating to increase Brussels power is legitimate, but renegotiating to repatriate powers is always illegitimate, is that correct?”

No – there would be no ‘negotiation’ – in the adversarial sense – with the EU required if we wanted to integrate further. They’d welcome it, so we’d all be pulling in the same direction. Also, negotiating to repatriate powers threatens to paralyse the EU as other states follow suit, and at worst to fundamentally undermine it. Integrating, on the other hand, would have the opposite effect.

“What the people in the UK must decide is whether their interests are served through continuing as a member or leaving.”

On that I agree, but before any major decision is made all the relevant arguments should be heard, no? So far – and you might disagree – that hasn’t really happened. That’s what I’m saying needs to change.

28. Ivo Petkovski

@Bob B

“Successive British governments set out to join the EEC in the 1960s for solid, pragmatic reasons. The current wave of Euroscepticism has more to do with what Krugman has called “policy entrepreneuring”

Policy wonks probably play a role in the current wave of scepticism, but I’m not sure they’re key – powerful business interests have an interest in the UK’s withdrawal because the logical assumption is that this would lead the UK down the US road of development, i.e. more deregulation of markets, privatisation, and the dismantling of state powers. This includes the ‘unelected elite’ at the top of Murdoch’s media empire, who are crucial in defining the parameters of any national debate we have.

I would also argue that they have found fertile ground for their agenda in the UK because of a self-perception of superiority to Europe, informed by memories of Empire and of WWII, plus the geographical separation, and the gravitational pull from the USA.

‘Pragmatism’ depends on the end goal you try to achieve, so you can be pragmatic in both wanting to withdraw and to push further into the EU. If you feel that less state planning and a heavier reliance on free markets is the way forward, then arguing for withdrawal is pragmatic. I don’t feel that way, and I think this confusion about the UK’s importance in the world is being deliberately used to foment Euroscepticism in a lot of people who otherwise also wouldn’t want more social Darwinism.

27

Predictably, you have avoided recognising the impact on business confidence and investment of renegotiating Britain’s terms of membership with the EU, followed by a national referendum with an, as yet, unspecified question.

30. Ivo Petkovski

@Bob B – I didn’t acknowledge the point, but I agree with it

26. Bob B

” What isn’t perhaps appreciated in that the repeating calls for renegotiating Britain’s membership of the EU and national referendums creates uncertainty for businesses…”

What isn’t perhaps appreciated is that continuing to have elections with different parties vying to lord it over us creates uncertainty for business.

What isn’t perhaps appreciated is business varying the amount of how much they invest creates uncertainty for our political overlords.

You see how silly it sounds by just changing a few words. The irony is I am probably one of the most pro-business posters on the thread. However, people must be able to decide their constitutional arrangements, not business decide for them. Telling people that they can’t discuss how they are governed because it may create uncertainty for business is scaremongering and blackmail.

The uncertainty for business reducing investment meme actually sounds familiar. It is the same scaremongering that has been used to the Scottish independence debate.

” Downing Street says that global corporates are sounding the alarm over the prospect of a referendum on Scottish Independence. ”

“Businesses don’t like the uncertainty surrounding Scotland’s place in the Union, says Number 10, and have told the PM that foreign investment is under threat. ”

“And according to the companies we spoke to, the matter of Scottish independence is of little concern. ”
http://blogs.channel4.com/factcheck/factcheck-does-scotland-look-bonnie-to-foreign-investors/9080

This robust FDI performance in a challenging market signals a number of messages for Scotland. One is that during 2011, the period covered by these figures, any concerns over the prospect of independence and potential knock-on impacts on areas such as corporate taxation appeared to be having little or no effect on FDI decisions. With the renewed focus on the independence debate over the past year, it may be that the effects are more likely to feed through in 2012. But in 2011 at least, overseas companies looking to invest heavily in jobs in the UK were more likely to choose Scotland than any other part of the country.
http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/2012_Scotland_Attractiveness_Survey/$FILE/EY_2012_Scotland_Attractiveness_Survey.pdf

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-business-18517100

No one is suggesting that business welcomes uncertainty. However, it can’t be used as a sledgehammer to shut people up.

27. Ivo Petkovski

” No – there would be no ‘negotiation’ – in the adversarial sense – with the EU required if we wanted to integrate further. They’d welcome it, so we’d all be pulling in the same direction. Also, negotiating to repatriate powers threatens to paralyse the EU as other states follow suit, and at worst to fundamentally undermine it. Integrating, on the other hand, would have the opposite effect. ”

What you are saying effectively is the process can only ever be one way. Why would they follow suit? We are constantly being told that all the other states welcome integration. Kinda sounds like the building is on pretty shaky foundations that could topple if anyone blows too hard. The EU spread of prosperity is hardly a resounding success
https://twitter.com/faisalislam/status/286625773413097472/photo/1

” On that I agree, but before any major decision is made all the relevant arguments should be heard, no? So far – and you might disagree – that hasn’t really happened. That’s what I’m saying needs to change. ”

Exactly. All the relevant arguments should be heard because we are definitely going to have a referendum at some point. But those who are pro EU need to drop delusional crap such as:

“…the baseless prejudice and deluded Empire-nostalgia that fuels most Euro-skepticism…”

I’ve no doubt that there are people who want to leave the EU because they are Empire-nostalgics. Others want to leave because they are anti-immigrant and none too keen on Johnny Foreigner. However, we are where we are having this national debate now because everyone who questions the value of EU membership has been arrogantly dismissed as beyond the pale by the London establishment. Everyone who questions the ‘project’ can’t be dismissed as a bigot. There are valid questions to be asked and pros and cons on both sides and that is what we need to hear beyond the smearing.

There is nothing particularly progressive that I can think of to be subservient to a Brussels bureaucracy or the European Central Bank. The way some people have used the EU issue over the last few years as some sort of litmus test and tried to label everyone who does not go along as a bigot has been completely counterproductive. Janan Ganesh wrote a thoughtful piece in the FT last week and made a good observation.

” However, many EU countries have long wished to leave behind the nation state anyway. To them it means perpetual war and economic chaos. We cherish our sovereignty because independence worked for us. The best predictor of a country’s attitude to the EU is its historical experience of nationhood. We cannot make Germany or Belgium want what we want, and vice versa. ”

The UK national experience is different from most of the other members so it should be no surprise that they also have a different outlook towards further integration. Whether the EU can accommodate that difference in experience will go a long way to determining whether the UK stays or exits. I don’t know how I would vote in the referendum because I do not know what will be on offer. However, we need to have an honest debate without the propaganda, smearing and threats.

32. Ivo Petkovski

@Richard W

I’ve no doubt that there are people who want to shout ‘racist’ or ‘bigot’ at any Eurosceptic, but I wouldn’t. But I’m also not clear what these pragmatic reasons for staying out are – you don’t want to be ‘subservient to a Brussels bureaucracy or the European Central Bank’, which sounds like an expression of wounded national pride. We wouldn’t be subservient at all, we’d be top table members with the weight to influence overall direction.

What specifically are the objections?

“Kinda sounds like the building is on pretty shaky foundations that could topple if anyone blows too hard”

It is, in a sense. The EU gets its legitimacy from each member’s willingness to recognise it as legitimate, and every state has its naysayers. So if one state withdraws – especially a giant like the UK – it would very much undermine the whole project. It is shaky and fragile, in the sense that any international political consensus is.

The FT piece you quote more or less supports what I’ve said about nostalgia. Our historical experience of nationhood makes us see ourselves as the plucky go-it-alone rebels, but the next century won’t be defined by a Caesar or Napoleon or Hitler, it will be a negotiation on questions such as climate change, and global financial regulation, with behemoths like the US and China. In that context we’re better off in Europe.

Richard W

“What isn’t perhaps appreciated is that continuing to have elections with different parties vying to lord it over us creates uncertainty for business. ”

As Churchill used to say: Democracy is the worst possible form of government – apart from all the others.

Carping on about renegotiating EU treaties – which will require consensus between all the other 26 EU members states – followed by a referendum in Britain on an unknown question at some time in the future, creates a great deal more uncertainty than general elections for businesses which depend on access to EU markets.

In the news: “Honda’s UK boss warns Britain must stay at heart of EU as it cuts 800 jobs”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/industry/9796813/Hondas-UK-boss-warns-Britain-must-stay-at-heart-of-EU-as-it-cuts-800-jobs.html#

Until all this is resolved, potential inward investors will be well advised to be very cautious about investing in Britain, which is hardly what we need with the recent warning from the NIESR that the economy could be heading towards a triple-dip recession.

@ 10 Bob B

No, I am jsut being pragmatic. Europe exports more to us than we do to them….so it would be very unlikely that they would cease trading with us as they have more to lose.

@ 12 Ivo

You seem unwilling to answer any of my other points…..but you are alos perpetuating the “austerity because of bank bailouts” myth. The bank bailouts have cost the UK about 10bn, which indeed is a considerable amount. In comparison to the 100+ bn *annual* budget deficit it’s prety tiny though. Simply put, this deficit is because of government overspending.

“We would alienate every ally we have in the world”

Really? This is ludicrous.

“Also, negotiating to repatriate powers threatens to paralyse the EU as other states follow suit, and at worst to fundamentally undermine it.”

This is what you and other pro-EU types are really afraid of. Should one nation exercise it’s democratic right to self-determination, leave the EU and be better off for it every other state in the EU will quickly question the need for the EU. Which will take power and money from those EU elites. So what you are really saying is that it is far better to ignore freedoms and choices for the sake of holding together the EU project – we’ve seen this in action when the EU ignores referendum votes.

Why would someone want to hold together this EU project though? You hint at an answer to this here…

“If you feel that less state planning and a heavier reliance on free markets is the way forward, then arguing for withdrawal is pragmatic. I don’t feel that way….”

You seem to like the EU as you feel it can be turned into a vessel to turn Europe into a socialist determinist state. More government control, I assume with like-minded elites telling us all what to do and spending our money as they see fit. I suppose you think that this will make us truly free?

35. Ivo Petkovski

@Tyler

“Simply put, this deficit is because of government overspending.”

A few things wrong with that:

First, the deficit (as ratio of debt to GDP) is lower than the average for comparable economies. It’s also lower than it has been since 1815. So it’s by no means clear that the deficit is the source of our current woes, or that cutting it would improve matters. Our credit rating isn’t seriously at risk with the deficit as it stands.

Secondly, even if we accept that the deficit needs to be reduced, there’s no sense in doing it by cutting public services. The Nobel prize winner Joseph Stiglitz – plus 60 other leading economists – warned the government about this, arguing that the economy can’t grow if people don’t have money to spend. The recent news that we’re heading for a triple dip recession seems to prove his forecast.

Thirdly, we can eliminate the deficit at a stroke by either clamping down on tax evasion and avoidance, or by making banks pay for the effective subsidy they receive by having the government underwrite them (estimated at £100 billion in 2009 alone – http://treasureislands.org/uks-implicit-bank-subsidy-cost-of-nhs/).

“You seem to like the EU as you feel it can be turned into a vessel to turn Europe into a socialist determinist state. More government control, I assume with like-minded elites telling us all what to do and spending our money as they see fit. I suppose you think that this will make us truly free?”

‘More government control’ – as opposed to what? More freedom for financial institutions to hold whole nations and governments hostage? If you assume that governments are representatives of people, then ‘more government control’ is a way to make the system work for the people. You seem to automatically equate ‘government’ with ‘oppression’ – why?

‘Like minded elites’ – again, as opposed to the current network of like minded political, financial and media elites, who don’t tell us what to do, don’t ask us for an opinion, but rather pursue their own agenda?

Ultimately you’re right, I am talking about a federal Europe as a sort of socialist determinist state, but built from the bottom up, democratically. Unless you’re the CEO of Goldman or JP Morgan, and I’ll assume you’re not, then you couldn’t really be any less ‘truly free’ under the current system…

Tyler: “No, I am jsut being pragmatic. Europe exports more to us than we do to them….so it would be very unlikely that they would cease trading with us as they have more to lose. ”

I keep on reading/hearing that silly argument. The reality is that an EU exporter selling into the British market can more easily find alternative customers within the large EU market than a British exporter, selling into the EU, would be able to reach alternative customers in other – inevitably more distant – markets.

Inward investors invest in Britain expecting access to EU markets. Renegotiating EU treaties depends on a consensus among the remaining 26 EU members. It can’t be assumed that all will of them go along without playing hardball sooner or later.

In the news, Cameron has said the debate over Britain’s continued membership of the EU isn’t going to go away. He is absolutely right about that – because a large chunk of those opposed to Britain’s membership are fanatics.

I can recall Harold Macmillan announcing Britain’s first application to join the, as then, EEC in 1961 – and the referendum in 1975 on Britain’s continued membership when two-thirds voted to stay in. Within a few years, the Labour Party leadership was already committed to leaving. So much for the referendum vote.

I suspect that patience in the EU and amomg inward investors will be wearing thin anytime soon.

@ Bob B

“The reality is that an EU exporter selling into the British market can more easily find alternative customers within the large EU market than a British exporter, selling into the EU, would be able to reach alternative customers in other – inevitably more distant – markets.”

Except back in the real world, this isn’t being shown to be the case. British exports to the EU are falling, yet British exports to the rest of the world (especially the commonwealth) are rising….and more inportantly they are doing so faster than EU countries exports to the same.

“Inward investors invest in Britain expecting access to EU markets. Renegotiating EU treaties depends on a consensus among the remaining 26 EU members. It can’t be assumed that all will of them go along without playing hardball sooner or later.”

This doesn’t seem to hurt thw Swiss, for example. You also forget that trade bans or other forms of EU protectionism would be near impossible to implement, as there would have to be a unanimous decision across all 26 states.

Bobbo, the only people who seem to be fanatics are the pro-EU types who defend it to the last disregarding all it’s failures. The Euro and it’s crisis, the corruption, the bloated self-serving beaurocracy, the waste, the democratic deficit….the list is very long. What positive benefits has the EU given us?

“British exports to the EU are falling, yet British exports to the rest of the world (especially the commonwealth) are rising”

Of course they are, Dumbo. Eurozone economies are presently depressed (because of the bad way EMU was set up) whereas the rest of the world economies aren’t depressed. But the EU market is large and nearby and it accounts for nearly half Britain’s exports.

I’m not an EU fan, just a Realist. I was long opposed to Britain joining EMU even before Gordon Brown said it wasn’t advisable back in June 2003. But another referendum will settle absolutely nothing.

Whatever terms Cameron comes back with, should the Conservative win the next general election, won’t be enough. It’s as predictable as night follows day that some will want more change and another referendum because they have staked out their place in British politics as being anti-EU. That is their reason for existence.

We Realists haven’t made a fetish of being anti-EU because we are not die-hard pro-EU or anti. I do think that the EU makes some bad decisions but I also think it better for Britain to stay at the negotiating table because the EU isn’t going to go away just because Britain leaves.

The Japanese car manufacturers and other inward investors don’t have to keep investing in Britain to make products here for export to the EU – and some of the remaining 26 EU members may lose patience if Britain leaves and want to play hardball over Britain’s exports of goods and services, especially financial services. Some parties in the EU are already pressing for Euro trades to be located within Eurozone financial centres.

40. Renie Anjeh

I hope that Ed Miliband does pledge a referendum on Europe. Not a ‘mandate referendum’ which would be ridiculous because it would be unworkable and lacking in gravity but instead a referendum asking people to the question whether they want to remain in the European Union (and possibly involved in the euro if need be) or outside the European Union but as members of the European Community with access to the Single Market. Pro-Europeans should grasp the chance for an in/out referendum, because it a referendum will be inevitable and the British people want one. Also, it would be a straight choice and pro-Europeans can win by putting forward a positive case. The reasons why pro-Europeans want a mandate referendum is because it would allow them to get the people on board with an unworkable project which they know is unworkable, so that they could withdraw without the need for a referendum. An extremely and wholly unrealistic prospect.

I can virtually guarantee that a referendum vote to stay in the EU will settle nothing. The following year, a new campaign will start for another referenedum because some are absolutely obsessed Europhobes.

If Britain were to leave, the EU wouldn’t go away. It would still be there unilaterally making decisions on trading relations, technical standards and competition policy issues and especially on whether Euro transactions should all be located in Eurozone financial centres instead of London.

@ Bob B

“But the EU market is large and nearby and it accounts for nearly half Britain’s exports.”

It’s actually about 35%. Still significant though, but importantly, it was declining as a % of UK exports whilst the rest of the world was increasing long beofre the crisis started.

“I’m not an EU fan, just a Realist”

So am I. I just see the EU’s massive problems, not least the lack of democracy and the Euro which is deeply flawed. I don’t see many advantages – sitting at some form of top table isn’t amongst them given the way the EU is run. Basically the only poewr we have is the veto.

“but I also think it better for Britain to stay at the negotiating table because the EU isn’t going to go away just because Britain leaves.”

That’s the whole point. It might. If the UK leaves and is the better for it it gives massive impetus for other countries to leave. Finland, Italy and Spain would all quickly be on the cards. That is why so many Eurocrats are running scared about this UK referendum.

“Some parties in the EU are already pressing for Euro trades to be located within Eurozone financial centres.”

This is true, but EU types are already pressing for this hard. It’s nothing to do with being in or out of the EU. It’s all about anti-competatively trying to end London’s dominance of financial services over Frankfurt or Paris, and trying to control the power and tax revenues finance generates. You’ll notice the same noises are being made about Geneva and Zurich.

Personally, I think there 100% has to be a referendum, for the sake of democracy in this country. People can have their own views either way of the EU, but that vote has to happen. Again personally, I would vote to leave the EU. It is a deeply flawed beaurocracy, with massive democratic deficit. It’s deeply wasteful financially whilst entrenching poor ccompetativeness. The mission creep trying to encompass more and more areas, away from it’s remit, towards a federal Europe is also deeply concerning. If it reverted to a free trade area with some other shared competancies it would be fine, but in it’s current form I think the UK should leave before it collapses under it’s own weight – which is almost certainly going to happen.

So how do you feel now?

But of course, your response would be EU cannot be transformed and despite the imminent integration of the eurozone states – you would still say status quo.

The Prime Minister differs and not surprisingly he has the public’s backing despite the best efforts by the loony left in the Guardian and other places.

I know all those with such superior intellect writing to guide us in the right path and we the plebes refuse to follow them…but we do. And we are far more pragmatic country than any political party, pundit give us credit for.


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