Monday, November 02, 2009

Cameron, Conservatives And The EU

It appears that today a few people in the Conservative Party have woken up to the fact that David Cameron is not going to be offering a referendum on Lisbon if it is already ratified when the Conservatives come to power. However, we have long known this as there was never any promise, cast-iron or otherwise to do so. There seems to have been no real rage or rebellion from any MPs or MEPs, and in a stroke a veil has been lifted and the often remarked “settled view” of the party leadership though still foggy, is a little clearer.

Let’s recall the pledge made a little over two years ago, but David Cameron in the Sun Newspaper.
Today, I will give this cast-iron guarantee: If I become PM a Conservative government will hold a referendum on any EU treaty that emerges from these negotiations.

No treaty should be ratified without consulting the British people in a referendum.
There is no, and never has been anything coming close to any pledge for a referendum post ratification. The above pledge is of course is for a pre-ratification situation.

The Conservative line seems to be to hold referendums on any future treaties handed down from the EU and secondly to “repatriate” some social justice powers. So far the only real commitment on Lisbon is to “not let matters rest”.

The first point is completely and utterly useless to us as The Lisbon Treaty is self amending, meaning that the EU never again has to go to the member states and ask for additional powers. It has the legal identity and essentially federal powers to control whatever it likes. The second point seems to me to be nothing more than an attempt to stop the Conservatives EU Sceptics from jumping ship. And it has worked. There are no specific details of what will be sought to be repatriated, or even how this can be achieved. At the moment, the Treaties guarantee the EU the rights to govern on particular aspects, but after Lisbon I do not see how anything can be codified. If repatriation requires approval from the EU Parliament, then any promises are simply empty as the EU Parliament would vote overwhelmingly against such moves.

Now, I may have voted Conservative in the last two general elections, but based on the lack of clarity and conviction from the Conservative Party leadership I shall not be doing so next year, this is not a change of position, it is what I thought the outcome of Lisbon would be and in line with what I have written before. It gives me no pleasure to be in the wilderness from the Conservative Party who on most other issues I agree, at least in principle on and if not for their stance on the EU I would quite probably be a Party Member.

We will be locked into the EU with the full powers of Lisbon probably by the end of the year. In case you missed it, that includes the flags and anthems that were dropped from the original constitution which are now recognised having been adopted via a different route. Ode to Joy will be played at all official functions, (as it was to celebrate Hitler’s birthdays) and the EU Flag will be displayed as widely as possible. These were adopted to convey the emotion of the EU where the flag is on display and when Ode to Joy is heard.

Let’s face some more facts. From next year now that Lisbon will be in effect there will be a renewed effort for the non-EURO countries to adopt the EURO to be in line with the rest of the EU, and there will be efforts to get the UK to join the Schengen zone. There will soon be moves for an EU wide ID Card scheme (yes, that’s why the UK one was eventually dropped). Lisbon provides for the “harmonisation” of Civil Law and Law Enforcement – they already have the EGF ready to roll out, and the EU can now take control of civil policing.

If the Conservative Party will not offer a referendum on Lisbon, any they will not offer a referendum on the wider issue of membership everyone who votes for the Conservatives at the next election is voting to formalise acceptance of our current situation. I do not believe there will be any significant repatriation of powers after a Conservative victory, because there is no mechanism by which this could happen. But even if I am wrong and even if this is what David Cameron seeks to do, what then? The UK will forever be tied to the EU and subservient to it decision making. This is the very best case situation that can occur by voting Conservative.

So I will not do it.

I will not vote for any party that accepts that power be taken away from voters and put irreversibly in the hands of unelected bureaucrats, technocrats and so called experts. What about what happens in 8 or 12 years when the Conservatives can’t poll enough to secure another majority? Any future Labour or Liberal Government could just dissolve Parliament forever as it will be inconsequential. The hollowing out of Parliament will have been completed, and the balkanisation of the whole of the EU will dictate that the regional assemblies that are already in place see to any business deemed not important enough to be dealt with in Brussels.

Pic Credit: Sue

For a very long time now the Conservative Party has allowed through its broad-church approach the notion that you can be a sceptic. But the real truth is, that Conservative Scepticism is just about taking a slower approach and being more visible and vocal about absorption into the EU state. I was once a part of this thinking, and the notion of “in Europe but not ruled by Europe. It was and remains a fallacy. There is no third way, it is a binary set of positions; you either support continued UK membership of the EU or you do not. Everything in-between is false and serves those who support greater integration.

The EU Phobes in the Party are the ones who split the Conservative party, they were in the minority but refused to cede to the majority opinions, they are the betrayers of real conservative opinions and ideals, of rule of law and power enshrined in Parliament by people who were subject to elections and public scrutiny. There is not one policy, and not one idea being put forward by the Conservative Leadership that will fundamentally change the relationship between the UK and the EU. It is so vague in fact I would find it an insulting if it were me who was a member. So, I would say to Conservative voters reading this, who I know overwhelmingly dislike and distrust the EU, are you really happy with this position? What, if anything are you going to do about changing it? And crucially, do you really want to vote for a party that is essentially in favour of continuing as members, as units of the European Superstate? This may be the last General Election in the UK when your vote can make a difference to how and by whom we are governed. Whoever our next PM is really will be the last PM with a significant role in our lives, because more and more the tools of control are going to be transferred from London to Brussels. President Blair is indeed unappealing, but there are many, many others who would be worse and just a heartbeat and closed meeting away from that position.

For thirty years the idea that Conservatives should ignore certain things about the EC, EEC and now the EU whilst concentrating on others has washed; but look where we are today. Where will we be in another eight or ten years? This thinking must stop.

Tell me I am wrong. But show me why. Behind every nudge towards supporting the Conservatives and being quiet on the EU is the implication that down the line something will be done, that the EU is just as disliked, and that at some point in time the Conservatives will reform it, or change our relationship in such a way as to be acceptable to the UK. But it never happened before and there is nothing tangible on the table to suggest this is actually what will be done. Voter disdain grows more and more as decisions are taken further and further away from their control.

What is additionally infuriating is the notion that we would be in a position of weakness if we were to attempt to change things. We are not. We are not (yet) tied to the EURO, the EU sells too much to the UK to every want to risk that stopping. We can withdraw monetarily, economically and politically. And for our slightly removed position we pay a lot of money into the project, and are second highest net contributors, we are not “bad Europeans” we have been suckers. Membership of EFTA guarantees us a trading relationship with the EU, do we need or want anything more than this? Do Conservatives want more than this? If not, say so because it could be within our grasp just so long as our representatives in Westminster know the veracity of our feelings.

So I guess my point is this. The Conservative Party will not withdraw from the EU, ever. I believe the number is at approximately 40% of Party members who want out of the EU and a further 30% who want at least some reduction in EU influence. So approx. 70% of Conservatives would probably say that the current position is not one they favour. To the 40% I put it to you that your party is not a party that will do this, and I think you should now give real consideration to switching your votes. To the 30%, I say that post-Lisbon I would wager your position and feeling will harden and you also should look to switch your votes. This, or you have to start pushing internally and pushing hard to get a reversal on this position. Or is one email from Bill Cash all that can be mustered?

There are plenty of us on the outside who would consider coming back if a solid reversal was attained. I suspect that if an in or out referendum were promised in return for a Conservative vote, the Tories could top 50% at the polls. I really do think this. You may lose some votes from EU-philes, but you will gain many, many more and you would truly be the party that broadly represents the centre-right feelings of this country, and that would be a truly great achievement in itself.


Sue said...

I completely concur!

Daniel1979 said...

Thanks Sue

subrosa said...

Excellent post Dan. Of course I don't vote tory but I still would like the SNP to reconsider their position in Europe. A member of the EC would be a far better position for an independent Scotland. It works for Sweden, Switzerland etc.

banned said...

Correct in all you say.
I will just do my little bit by not voting Tory and refusing to stand whenever "Ode To Joy" is played.

The Boiling Frog said...

I echo your sentiments expressed here Daniel.

The Tories, or indeed the other 2 parties, will not change their stance on the EU unless we - the voters - force them to; i.e. vote UKIP in such numbers that it starts to seriously eat into their electoral share.

However I don’t think the next election will be the time that will happen. Cameron, I suspect, has calculated, rightly in my view, that not only will his party put up with anything at the moment in order to regain power, but that the voter’s prime concerns at the next election will be the economy and giving Brown an electoral kicking.

However the 70% are not going to stay quiet forever and they are clearly unhappy about the party’s stance on this. So where Cameron will be vulnerable is near the General Election in 5 years time, after they’ve (hopefully) got a grip on the economy and other matters, and therefore he could be subject to threats of a mass defection unless he changes his position on the EU.

Also the electorate at large will not vote UKIP in significant numbers until there’s a major EU issue which hurts them directly and is obviously Brussels’ fault – a kind of ‘EU 10p tax rate fiasco’ if you like. There are plenty of potential examples on their way, but nothing has materialised so far that will force the issue.

Although I’m a member of UKIP, I will be voting Tory at the next election for two reasons; first the sight of ‘Toff’ Cameron in Number 10 will send Brown into meltdown. Good. The thought of that fills me with glee.

Secondly, taking a more pragmatic view, I live in a Tory safe seat and my MP is almost certain to have a significant cabinet position. Therefore I can lobby someone with his hands on the levers of power and if he’s sick of hearing from me now he ain’t seen nothing yet!

So for the time being I’m keeping my powder dry regarding voting UKIP at a General Election.

Fighting the EU is playing the long game, we’ve lost a battle, but we will win the war!

Anonymous said...

Your well-expressed views are shared by not just the majority of Tory grassroots but also by disaffected Labour/LibDem voters whose voices are not echoed in the MSM.

The Conservatives and Labour governments, since the Treaty of Rome, been able to get away with fudge and lies because the media were supine and lazy.

The blogosphere could prove to be the undoing of the Lib/Lab/Con stranglehold of consensus politics.

Should UKIP manage to get 20% of the vote, the CP might well have a disquietingly small majority after the GE, and be forced to ally itself with UKIP. Should that happen, the CP will have a potent eurosceptic headache.

Doubtless, Cameron believes that voters will be too scared of letting in another Labour government and will therefore vote Tory. I believe a surprise awaits him.

Daniel1979 said...

Subrosa - Thanks. I do not understand why any parties other than the Communists and the Greens would want the EU or more EU. I also hope the SNP do reconsider, but as a man from Southern England, I will not attempt to lobby them directly on that ;0)

Banned - I will NEVER observe an EU anthem or flag. Ever.

TBF - I will be honest and say I do not quite follow the logic of being a member of UKIP and voting Tory (I assume that UKIP are standing in your Constituency when I say this) but I will not critique. Mostly I am just happy when people vote at all, but also because you are sticking with it for the long game... I have been saying for years (mostly over on the DT blogs before here) that the anti-EU forces in this country are not coordinated enough and lack clear strategy and vision. It is too reliant on the Tory Party coming good, a position I no longer subscribe to. But good luck with the harassment - feel free to drop me an email should he be acting up!

Fausty - I share the optimism for UKIP, this country sorely needs a different viewpoint being expressed from Westminster. 20% is a lofty goal, but an admirable one. I think you are right that Cameron is banking on the fear of Labour returning keeping the EU Sceptics with him, and I think there are many that will; so it is a calculated gamble that will probably pay off for him, but I will not be a part of it. I will never again have to live with my decision to vote for a party that talks a good game on the EU in some quaters, but acts very differently when it comes to the crunch.

We all know that there is one man that could transform UKIP into an intellectual and electoral powerhouse... shame he still backs the Conservatives Mr Cameron. Though, at least if he does make it to the top of the Conservatives one day they could potentially return to being about more traditional values on freedom and liberty, and yes, ready to take the UK out of the EU.

The Boiling Frog said...

TBF - I will be honest and say I do not quite follow the logic of being a member of UKIP and voting Tory (I assume that UKIP are standing in your Constituency when I say this) but I will not critique.

I understand what you're saying, but essentially, not being particularly partisan, the logic is that I'm just trying to be pragmatic.

I've no idea if UKIP intend to stand where I live but realistically I have to appreciate that in the short term they have absolutely no chance of winning - so I've got to take the least worst option.

I agree with your point though that Euroscepticism is fragmented - it's frustrating, unfortunately it's going to take a; 'you can eat cake' moment to unify it