David Cameron seems intent on advertising his flop of an EU renegotiation as a golden ticket to solving the puzzle of Britain’s place within Europe. After discussions with the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, Downing Street hailed agreement on triggering the ‘emergency brake’. This would allow the Government to stop in-work benefits to EU migrants for four years.
The move is no where near what Euroscpetics expect from Cameron’s renegotiation. Severe dissatisfaction is already emerging in those who seek a genuine and significant change to Britain’s relationship with the EU. As Daniel Hannan put it yesterday, ‘we don’t want an emergency brake; we want to take back control of the steering wheel’.
Eurosceptics want the Parliament to have genuine control over our borders, the supremacy of British law over European law once more, a democratised EU system, and a looser relationship with our European neighbours based on trade. Compare these to the goals that Cameron offers. It is now apparent that the ‘concessions’ he has discussed with European leaders pale in significance to what a large swathe of the Conservative Party and the British public desire.
EU officials have been said to privately speak of the agreeableness of British ‘demands’ and keep quiet lest Eurosceptics realise what is occurring. Unfortunately for them and for Cameron, the cat is out of the bag. Though one does wonder how Cameron thinks he can get away with playing his country and party like fools. As Liz Bilney the chief executive of the group Leave.EU. expressed, this charade of a renegotiation exercise by the Prime Minister is nothing but an ‘embarrassing spectacle… for publicity purposes only.’ On the evidence, this is the conclusion we too can draw.
Look beyond the exterior of what Cameron is offering and you will find very little substance. Downing Street has split his aims in to four areas: issues around the single market, economic competitiveness within the EU, the exemption of Britain from ‘ever closer union’ per the Treaty of Rome, and migration. The latter area matters most to the British public and, unsurprisingly, it is also the area in which Cameron finds it impossible to gain any ground whilst Britain still remains a member of the EU.
We could talk about ‘emergency brakes’ till the cows come home, but as more and more people are beginning to realise, Britain cannot be considered an independent, sovereign nation whilst its migration policy is determined in Brussels. At a party level, Cameron is playing a very dangerous game. He cannot possibly hope to satisfy conservative Eurosceptics with his current proposals as it is clear he is trying to pull the wool over their eyes. So expect stormy seas ahead for the Conservative Party.
A recent poll suggests that there are at least 70 Conservative MPs who are determined to vote to leave the EU no matter what. This is expected to rise to 200 more voting to leave if Cameron’s renegotiations are deemed insufficient, as they almost certainly will be.