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David Cameron’s EU strategy risks backfiring seriously

Jonathan Lindsell, 24 June 2014

Britain is currently fighting blunt tooth and broken nail to block Jean-Claude Juncker’s promotion to European Commission President.

For David Cameron’s substantial EU reform ambitions he needs all the allies, goodwill and bargaining chips he can get his hands on, and he needs them with both member states’ leaders and whoever tops the Brussels machine. Instead, he’s alienating everybody by dragging out the process, forcing the pivotal German Chancellor Merkel to declare against him, losing popular Italian leader Matteo Renzi, and making Juncker a much worse enemy than he needed to be. Cameron’s even repelled the support of Boris Johnson’s university chum, the Polish foreign minister.

Before the EP elections, Juncker expressed openness to reform. Before the EP elections, the British media didn’t know who the Luxembourger was, let alone care about him enough to run attack pieces hyping his alcoholism/megalomania/Anglophobia. By opposing him so publicly and in such uncompromising language, Cameron has built Juncker into a bogeyman representing all the EU’s many ills. Juncker is not that bogeyman – defeating his Commission Presidency bid will obtain precisely zero of the reforms Eurosceptics want.

There were good reasons for opposing Juncker, and it initially made sense for Britain to voice concern. However, it’s long been clear that there’s no other option, let alone a consensus candidate, and that most EU leaders are behind the EPP candidate. Early last week, Cameron should have compromised and retained his political capital, supporting Juncker in exchange for the single market portfolio for Britain’s commissioner, plus a public statement of reformist intent from the newly-crowned president.

Instead Cameron will take a big loss, having wasted his chips. He’s skirting a further PR disaster since Friday’s summit will be held at Ypres (‘Wipers’), the Belgian town which saw three bloody battles during the First World War and Mustard Gas’ first military use. Diplomats on all sides are already wary of the symbolism. One over-enthusiastic Tory (or Ukip) MEP making bombastic remarks about a tradition of fighting off Germans could cause a serious incident.

Cameron’s position looks weaker still thanks to campaign group ‘Business for Britain’, who coordinated 54 industry leaders to write to the Sunday Times demanding radical EU progress.  The group also commissioned Europe Economics to research the City’s EU relationship. The study concluded Eurozone banking regulation is becoming so threatening that Britain will soon face a dilemma named ‘Osborne’s Fork’: leave the EU or join the Euro.

Downing Street’s intentions to invoke the Luxembourg compromise or force a formal vote on Juncker are worse steps on this dismal path – they’ll humiliate Cameron further, burn what little petrol is left in the goodwill tank, and still yield absolutely nothing of value. The only way to explain Cameron’s strategy besides incompetence would be a desire to demonstrate that the EU’s so obstructive that it’s beyond reform, meaning Cameron could recommend exit in a referendum campaign. If that’s the plan, though, why pursue it in a way that makes the Prime Minister look isolated, deluded and obsessive?

1 comment on “David Cameron’s EU strategy risks backfiring seriously”

  1. All the signs are that NuTory Boy suffers from delusions of grandeur about Britain’s position in the EU and has imagined until now that threats by him would cause the French and Germans to run shrieking for cover and offer him anything when shove came to push. This was nonsense of a very high order under any circumstances, but NuTory Boy put the icing on the debacle by announcing in advance of any re-negotiation that he would campaign for Britain to stay in the EU.

    The only way Britain will reform the EU is by leaving it. The way to do it is explained here

    The EU: Making the going good for getting Out

    ROBERT HENDERSON suggests some ways in which the No side can maximize its chances of winning the referendum on EU membership

    Amidst all the confusion and excitement of bringing about a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, it is easy to forget that there are considerable risks associated with the vote. The government will almost certainly campaign to stay in, as will the Labour Party, and many institutions, lobby groups, media groups, foreign governments, and influential individuals. Public opinion, although hardening towards leaving, is fickle and cannot be relied upon. A decision to stay in would probably destroy the UKIP, and would also seriously undermine Conservative Eurosceptics. It is therefore essential that we should think about the likely shape of the campaign, and how we who believe in leaving can improve the odds.

    The general strategy

    A) How to leave

    Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty states

    1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.

    2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.

    3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

    4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.

    A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

    5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49. (http://www.lisbon-treaty.org/wcm/the-lisbon-treaty/treaty-on-european-union-and-comments/title-6-final-provisions/137-article-50.html).

    It is strongly implied in in para 3 of the Article that unilateral withdrawal is possible :

    “ The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2”.

    However, the clause does not explicitly give the right of unilateral secession and could be interpreted as merely referring to how any agreement might be scheduled to take effect. The other EU members could adopt this interpretation to thwart the UK leaving without declaring UDI.

    Read more at http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/making-the-going-good-for-getting-out/

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