Am I the only person who thinks that when the economy is stalling, the Tories seem to argue about Europe? Andrew Rawnsley had an interesting article in Sunday’s Observer where he suggested that perhaps David Cameron should take some lessons from the last Tory PM and his dealings with Europe, John Major:
‘As David Cameron prepares to deliver his long-awaited, much-hyped and supposedly definitive speech on Europe, in which he will tell us how he proposes to set about renegotiating Britain’s relationship, he might usefully contemplate the lessons of Maastricht. Sir John arrived in the Dutch city in a position of almost total isolation. Just as David Cameron is today, he appeared trapped between the clamorous demands of his party at home and the unwillingness of other European leaders to concede to them. He wanted two big opt-outs: from the social chapter and from participation in monetary union. None of the top players wanted to grant them. Around the table, it was usually one against 11. Yet he eventually managed to prevail.‘
I kind of met John Major back in 1992 when he flew into visit our school and landed on the football pitch in a helicopter to visit us all in the aftermath of our school (St. Anthony’s, Craigavon) being razed to the ground by a bomb and replaced by 26 or so mobile huts. It was greatly appreciated and definitely lifted our spirits to know that our school was not forgotten.
At present, DC’s dealings with Europe have not been that successful owing to his use of the veto in 2011 which had the UK on its own and largely sidelined in Brussels with little by way of a voice or influence. This is only compounded by the noises he, Gideon and other ministers and supporters come out with which many on the continent may not find particularly helpful, combined with the Tories leaving the main European Conservative grouping the European Parliament and joining the ECR, an alliance of Eastern European neo-fascists, racists and anti-antisemitists.
So, will Cameroon be able to repatriate powers from the EU back to the UK, primarily with regard to employment and social laws without giving anything in return, say in relation to the City and its financial work? Frau Merkel has a lot on her plate sorting out the Eurozone, with Greece essentially a de facto protectorate of the EU and on life support, will she and others want to help Dave out with his recalcitrant and ill disciplined back benchers who really want to leave the EU altogether?
‘Reform of complex international institutions and relationships is usually best achieved not by threatening to flounce out, but by patience and sound arguments. Sir John did not win his negotiation at Maastricht by behaving like a crazed dog. He built relationships. He won his opt-outs not by being loathed and friendless, but by winning respect and making alliances.‘
With the UK and I suspect England in particular becoming increasingly isolationist and anti-European, where will these probably ill-tempered and possibly ill-timed negotiations go? Who knows, but if we work on the massive assumption that Cameron stays as PM and is able to gain support and create a platform of agreement among his supporters for matters to be discussed, is it within the realms of possibility that many European leaders will be willing to engage?
‘[T]here was a very salient warning from one of Angela Merkel’s political allies. Gunther Krichbaum, the Christian Democrat chairman of the Bundestag’s European affairs committee, remarked: “You cannot create a political future if you are blackmailing other states. That will not help Britain.”
Indeed it will not. Pointing a gun and threatening to shoot if the other person doesn’t give you what you want is a tactic for muggers. It is not recommended as a way to build international alliances. Especially not when everyone else believes that, if you do pull the trigger, the brains you blow out will be your own.‘