Monday, September 14, 2009

A Conservative dose of reality on the EU

Possibly the majority of Conservatives oppose British membership of the European Union. Even more likely is that the majority of Conservative voters do. The anti-EU United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) attracts a great deal of its support from people who have previously voted Tory.

The case against the EU is made with wit and venom by Libertarians such as Devils Kitchen every day. Those amongst the Tories who publicly support the EU- like Ken Clarke or Chris Beazley- are roundly abused by their own side.

We are told that if the Irish reject the treaty of Lisbon in their referendum next month- possibly even if they accept it- then the British Conservatives will rescind the previous ratification and block its adoption.

Err...

No they won't.

Firstly, Ireland will ratify.

Secondly, for David Cameron will not commit such political capital to the cause. It would be pollitically suicidal and he knows it. Mr. Cameron, like Labour, only believes in "what works".

While even the most die-hard supporter of the EU would admit its myriad faults, the fact is that in a world where size really does matter, where China and India are taking their place at the centre of global councils, the only way that smaller European powers can project influence is through neighbourly co-operation. If the EU did not exist, we would have to build something like it. The EU therefore "works".

More and more of the figures around David Cameron regard the entire anti-EU lobby as not much more that "closet racists and fruitcakes, mostly", and many of the most senior people around Cameron have had serious jobs in Brussels. Ed Llewellyn was Paddy Ashdown's bag man long before he was David Cameron's- and his pragmatic views will trump the visceral nonsense spouted by the Conservative right.

Anti Europeans in the current Conservatives are a bit the Selsdon Man was for the Thatcherites: many might have supported the controversial ideas, but in the run up to the 1979 election, they were circumspect about saying so. After the election, the pressures of power eliminated the Seldon plan as a coherrent option- only John Redwood now ploughs the lonely furrow, long overtaken by the cynicism of practical politics. Were the Conservatives to be elected, they are now, in my judgement most likely to tack towards a far safer position than that of general opposition to the EU- and Redwood will be left even more isolated.

The Treaty of Lisbon, then, will be ratified.

I suspect it will be a long time before further institutional change is demanded: even Turkey accepts that it will not join before 2024. Meanwhile the position of the the British government will change: it will focus on trying to maximise the benefit from EU membership.

The right wing hard anti-EU wing of the Conservatives may declare that it feels betrayed, but they can not now say that they did not see it coming. Only if UKIP can make a breakthrough into the House of Commons would the Conservatives even consider a turn back- and that looks pretty unlikely.

4 comments:

Newmania said...

What you consider anti European views are not only the views of the Conservative right ( by some ,limited definitions ) but the majority of the country (A Poll that amazed even me showed just how much this week). Such views are also supported by Union members and indeed by some Liberals who deplore the assault on democracy and individual rights ( DK for example who I have met is no Conservative more ‘Liberal’ in some ways ). Your glee at the frustration of the wishes of a country by a self serving elite is honest ,I suppose, but not one I could share
Then again I am not convinced that the Conservative Party is as anti European or factional as you suppose .While it has many loyal members of our “imagined community”, a Nation , and I am one , it also has pragmatists , and small c conservatives ( I am one of those as well ). I think what you will see resulting from the melange , is a slow consistent pressure to manoeuvre an escape route far down the line and avoid further attacks on the country .Incidentally I like Ken Clarke ,we all do , a Liberal might not understand easily but he is not abused .He is listened to with admiration and respect.

Conservatives in sober moments will balance patriotism democracy , even , with an abiding belief in free trade , international order and a fair debate about to what extent the EU is now an obstacle or aid each of these . The EU certainly imposes a mounting regulatory cost burden it is an inflictor of hated bossy booted Liberal nostrums by the back door open borders …. and no-one could doubt that the UK would love to be out of it ..ceterus paribus . Ceterus would not be paribus though , and any Conservative is aware that it is entirely possible to make things worse by changing them , whatever your intention .

I think we all see the horse has bolted on creation of a legal super state but there is also the first sign of doubt in the apologists ..The sheer sleaze and obfuscation is hard to maintain for British enthusiasts however naturally it may come to Continent . A certain secret dream has died these last few years , thank god , I think it has more dying to do.



Where are dead right is that the horror of having Brown in trumps all and any doubts . there will be no mucking around with UKIP come the day

Bishop Hill said...

You seek to justify our membership of the EU by referring to a need to "project influence". What on Earth does this mean? And why is it a good thing for me?

Cicero said...

Bishop: We project greater influence in global trade by working as part of the wider EU. It means that we get better access for our goods than we would being outside- that is an obvious benefit to our economy. We would not get such deals without being able to offer the carrot of the EU single market access in return. It also brings us more inward investment. The fact that the UK is so powerful in the EU means that we are able to lead the Union in ways that benefit all of us, and the single market is only one way.

I would like to see us overturning the German obstruction to a single European market in service too (at the moment we have to "passoprt" finance instead of having absolute freedom of movement). In my view that would create a more efficient, liquid and open fianncial system.

Newmani- what I am saying is that I see the Conservative leadership accepting Lisbon: indeed I think they want to do so and move on, so your views of the alleged preferences of the Conservative party or even the country do not signify much to DC and his team.

Newmania said...

.David Cameron is commited not to Europe but to winning an election. He is not an obstacle