As was noted previously there is a lot of talk in the press about senior Tories, whether on the backbenches or in cabinet , pushing David Cameron in relation to a change to the relationship between the UK and the EU. This morning (for me in Australia) I was reading my usual Guardian and noted 2 different pieces, one from arch-contrarian and self-confessed NIMBY, Simon Jenkins, while the other deals with senior diplomat, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, who has warned the prime minister that the UK’s role as something of a bridge into Europe with the world would be seriously at risk owing to the hard-line stance of his party and supporters.
First, Simon’s piece. I have to admit from the outset that I have something of a love/hate relationship with Simon, especially his obvious arrogance that what he says is ‘inevitable’ when all I know is that in life little is (not even taxes!).
Jenkins wants to move the debate away from a simple ‘In/Out’ debate to one of opt outs, a sensible proposition in my eyes:
‘The euro crisis is thus an opportunity for the most serious restructuring of political Europe since the postwar settlement. The Nobel peace prize awarded to the EU last year may have seemed ludicrous, but it set a seal on an era. The centripetal forces of European union did bring peace and prosperity. They bonded a continent that had been the cradle of war since the dawn of time. It was worth recognising the fact.
Equally it is worth recognising that this age is over. Its degeneration into a currency union of highly disparate economies may have been a mistake, that has plunged half of Europe into unemployment, misery and depression. But it has at least precipitated reform. Some countries may feel ready for the disciplines of closer federal union with Germany. Others, not just Britain, will reject such surrender of sovereignty. They will wish to draw back.‘
As often with Simon, I find myself nodding away on certain points and thinking that he has jumped to a lot of conclusions with many others, granted his high rhetoric often doesn’t help sway me to his side and merely acts in getting my back up.
Is the Eurozone Crisis the best opportunity for the EU’s reorganisation in a generation, undoubtedly, however, seeing as all energy is being focused on solving the Eurozone Crisis and greater integration, it is debatable whether or not continental political leaders will be willing to help out a country lead by a party that seems to want the demise of the Euro and the EU at all costs.
With regard to the currency union and whether it was a mistake, this is largely open to debate. Could it have been designed a whole lot better? Of course, you would need to be insane to suggest otherwise, however, as the currency is still in its infancy it is still far too early to see whether or not it will be a success in the long run. Further, with discussions ongoing in relation to the PIGS’ national debt problems, I would not be making any deliberations or writing obituaries on the Euro for some time. It hasn’t gone away you know, even in Greece…
Jenkins also notes that what Cameron wants is to revert to the Europe of Maastricht 1991, one where the EU was in essence a trading bloc only, with little other spheres of shared sovereignty being devolved to Brussels. However, as we all know in the North of Ireland, the past is usually a different country and one we will never visit again, which begs the question, how can the Tories turn back time while staying in the EU? What will the EU want in return? (I’m looking at you, the Square Mile)
Meanwhile, in an unusually candid interview with the Guardian, Sir Nigel Sheinwald tells the paper why he believes that leaving the EU would be a catastrophic for the UK:
‘I just cannot see any logical basis for thinking a move to the sidelines, or particularly a move out of Europe, would be anything other than diminishing to UK’s capacity, standing, influence, ability to get things done and capacity to build coalitions internationally.‘
Further, Sir Nigel issues a warning to Dave about any impending renegotiation:
‘To take the position some take here in the UK, which is our European partners are going to be asking for the moon, and therefore it won’t be surprising if we put in a very large demand on the table – that seems to be at the very least premature. In any event other members of the EU would regard any really significant proposals by us to renegotiate as opportunistic, given the main areas they are going to be examining are ones they would say are necessary for the euro to survive and prosper.
These issues are existential for them, and they would argue of a different character to the sort of proposals we might be putting forward.’
Of course, many Tories have been noting how the likes of Norway and Switzerland fair outside of the EU and they believe that this is the best model for the UK too. To be honest, coming from Tories, I find the ambition to be a nation on the same level of influence as a nation of chocolatiers and another of Captain Ahab wannabes hard to believe or fathom, but alas, the Tory party does look increasingly like a party that has lost its ability for rational thought and may no longer be considered a natural party of government among the electorate, who knows?
Whether the UK leaves the EU or not, to be fair, I don’t know and part of me does not really care, I merely see it as part of the Tory plan to turn England in particular into some Northern European version of Florida with lax employment and social legislation and awful weather; fortunately, the EU appears to act as something of a break on their worst excesses.
I will leave the last word for Sir Nigel:
‘The idea, if there were an idea, of going it alone being somehow appealing to our traditional partners or to our future partners in Asia or elsewhere in the world has been undermined very significantly by the comments made by the Obama administration.‘