The accidental exit

David Cameron may have inadvertently set Britain on a path out of the EU

12 January 2013

If Britain leaves the European Union, historians will say that 30 June 2012 was when the great exit began. That day, David Cameron was due to write an article for the Sunday Telegraph and his advisers were frantic. It was a last-minute idea, to balance out some loose talk from the Prime Minister at a Brussels press conference. The piece was being drafted by committee and on the hoof. Aides stood at railway stations and in airport lounges emailing a line here and a tweak there. The result was Cameron’s gnomic pledge that ‘for me the two words “Europe” and “referendum” can go together’.

What did it mean? Those who inquired were asked to show patience. The Prime Minister would have more to say in the autumn. Thus began the long wait for Cameron’s big Europe speech.

But events kept getting in the way. The party conference was ruled out because it would make the Tories look obsessed with Europe. And it would be impolitic to give a major speech before the summit on the EU Budget. So ‘autumn’ became ‘before Christmas’. The goose got fatter, but still no speech came.

On Monday, the Prime Minister told people to wait for ‘the speech in January’. It is not yet written. But I understand that Cameron now does know what he wants to say. He will commit to keeping Britain in the single market, rejecting the calls by many in his party for a Swiss-style free trade agreement. He’ll even make the case for expanding the single market into other areas and — possibly — giving Brussels more authority to enforce its rules. This, however, will mean that most of the irritations of EU membership (including those pesky directives) will remain. There’ll be no relief for ministers who feel emasculated by EU procurement rules, no escape from regulations aimed at the heart of the City of London. Britain will only be able to open up its markets to the new economies of the east at a pace set by Brussels. This is, under Cameron’s plan, the price of being part of the world’s largest single market.

So what does he want in exchange? His speech will not set out a shopping list; he feels it makes no sense to show his hand too soon. Harold Wilson, one Cameron confidant recalls, ‘set out six things he wanted from the renegotiation and only got one of them’. But most things outside the single market and foreign-policy co-operation are up for consideration. Regional spending and the working time directive are two early candidates for repatriation.

Next, the timing. The pledge to renegotiate would be included in a 2015 Tory manifesto, and if they won the election outright that year, the process would start soon afterwards. Cameron will say that when the renegotiation is complete, probably around 2018, he’ll put the results to the British people. We’ll be able to vote to stay in on the new terms — or leave. Cameron plans to campaign for staying in, and is confident of victory. The idea of an exit, he thinks, would panic business.

As soon as Cameron has sat down after his speech — and probably well before he stands up to deliver it — a Tory row over Europe will erupt. The ‘Better Off Out’ crowd will denounce him. MPs and donors will be spitting at the prospect of the party campaigning to stay in the EU in a referendum. Many MPs will complain that with the Ukip threat looming, the Tories have no chance of winning a majority without some kind of referendum in this parliament, even if only one seeking a mandate for renegotiation. Others will argue that the suspicion left by the ‘cast-iron guarantee’ of a referendum means that the vote has to be legislated for in this parliament, a solution being pushed by an organised group of Tory backbenchers.

But the most dangerous criticism will be that by ruling out a so-called ‘Brexit’, Cameron has undermined his own negotiating position, perhaps fatally. This is a view taken by an increasing number of Cabinet ministers. If Cameron is going to persuade a majority of his party to campaign for Britain to remain in the EU (there is as yet no majority for that position), he must bring back terms of membership very different from Britain’s current ones. Exempting the NHS from the working time directive, as William Hague has suggested, or limiting residency rights to those with a job or other means of support, would be the bare minimum. If that were all Cameron could obtain, at least nine Cabinet members would be inclined to vote ‘out’ in the referendum.


Not every Tory Eurosceptic would campaign for an ‘out’ result; several would bite their tongues out of loyalty or ambition. But it is hard to imagine the Maastricht rebel Iain Duncan Smith campaigning to keep Britain in the EU. Or Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, who told this magazine last year: ‘I want my country back’. Even Michael Gove, one of Cameron’s closest Cabinet allies, would be hard pressed in these circumstances to make the case for Britain continuing to pay its dues to Brussels. It’s likely that most Tory MPs would feel the same way.

So Cameron’s speech may end up leaving his party more deeply split than at any time since the repeal of the Corn Laws. He might have to accept that the only way he can reconcile the Conservatives to EU membership is by threatening to leave.

The PM, though, is all too aware of what he is getting himself into. A Tory who has known Cameron for years observes, ‘He used to see the Europe issue as an opportunity not a threat. He now, though, sees it very much as a threat.’ One of those involved in plotting European policy concedes that ‘there’s risk in any direction he steps in’.

The experience of government has made most Tory ministers more Euro-sceptic rather than less. At every turn, they are told by officials what they can’t do thanks to various EU regulations. ‘Day-to-day British government now happens to be in Brussels,’ one secretary of state told me recently.

Even within the Prime Minister’s close circle, many now favour outright withdrawal. Steve Hilton, his senior adviser, now sojourning in California, came to despise the EU even more than he did the civil service. Oliver Letwin, who occupies the grandest office in 9 Downing Street, is so frustrated by Brussels regulations that he’d like Britain out. But others around Cameron don’t share these views. As one minister puts it, ‘There might be only a few pro-Europeans left in the Tory party. But half of them work in Downing Street.’

This statement is aimed at Ed Llewellyn and Patrick Rock, two powerful No. 10 advisers who worked in Brussels for the wet Chris Patten when he was a European Commissioner. This makes them unsound in the eyes of Tory Eurosceptics. The news that Llewellyn is keeping a close rein on the drafting process for this speech and liaising with key figures, including some Eurosceptic backbenchers, has hardly reassured them. But one of Cameron’s circle who favours a radical renegotiation says that Llewellyn ‘has his views, but he isn’t the kind of guy to enforce those on others’. My source suggests that, if you are looking for the reason why Downing Street is wary of Euroscepticism, then the Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood is your man.

William Hague is also less Eurosceptic than many imagine. After a Cabinet meeting in October, ministers saw the Foreign Secretary take Michael Gove aside and upbraid him for suggesting that Britain should threaten to leave the EU. Unlike almost every other Tory minister, he has found the experience of working through the EU more pleasant than he expected. He purrs about its ability to amplify Britain’s voice in the world. One Liberal Democrat minister observes that ‘Hague has a commendably sensible approach to working with our European partners.’

The other great influence on Cameron, as ever, is George Osborne. The Chancellor continues to believe that the single market does more good to the British economy than harm. But just as important is his political view; he is the electoral strategist as well as the Chancellor. Osborne thinks the Tories couldn’t win a referendum to leave.

Osborne calculates that business leaders would line up against any ‘out’ campaign and that the public would side with them rather than the politicians. Also, the Tory Eurosceptics remain divided, each seeming to have a slightly different vision for Britain’s future relations with Europe. They are leaderless — the biggest single gap in the British political market today. Boris Johnson flirted with taking on the role. But he retreated quickly when the City made clear what it thought of the prospect of a British exit.

But the real reason for Cameron’s confidence is his belief that Angela Merkel will help him. The EU budget negotiations and the protections for the non-eurozone, single market countries in the banking union are cited by Downing Street as evidence of Germany’s willingness to accommodate Britain’s concerns. One of those tasked with drawing up Cameron’s negotiating position tells me that ‘Merkel does now understand that Cameron is trying to find a way that Britain can stay inside the EU that the Tory party and the public are satisfied with.’

The assumption is that the Germans will help because, in the words of one senior minister, ‘They’re petrified of being left alone with the French.’ So Cameron’s great gamble is that Merkel fears that, without Britain, the EU would be a far more dirigiste, protectionist place. As Hague pointed out in a recent speech in Berlin, there’s no majority for economic liberalism inside the eurozone.

But Downing Street needs to be careful. It has misread the signals from Berlin before. In November 2011, Cameron returned from a lunch with Merkel confident that she was sympathetic to his predicament. In the event, she stitched up a deal with Sarkozy against him and he had to threaten a veto. It may be logical for Germany to do everything to keep Britain in the EU. But European politics is not always driven by logic.

Any significant agreement that Cameron and Merkel reach would need the unanimous support of all 25 other member states. All it takes is for one state to veto, and the deal would be off, making a British ‘out’ vote a distinct possibility.

It is worth remembering that Britain has not always excelled at European brinkmanship. Henry VIII never intended to break with Rome and quit the jurisdiction of that other European project, the Roman Catholic Church. He assumed that it would accommodate his needs rather than lose so powerful a realm. Rome’s intransigence left him with no option but to leave. Cameron might find himself in a similar position.

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  • beat_the_bush

    When Henry VIII broke off from the Catholic church, it was not because he was seeking some better future for the country, it was, as we all know, down to his selfish wish for a divorce, out of a desire for a wife who would bear him a son. Likewise, these renegotiations on EU membership have nothing to do with the future well being of the UK
    and everything to do with a selfish desire of the Conservative party to stop themselves losing out on seats to the puny UKIP.

    • GaryEssex

      Let’s see how puny UKIP is when the results of the European elections are counted in 2014 and when the Conservative can’t win in 2015.

      • beat_the_bush

        If the Conservatives can’t win 2015, it will be because puny UKIP took enough votes away to stop them from winning but not enough for UKIP to return a single MP to Westminster. Puny little UKIP. Forever puny where it counts.

        • DaveL

          The mantra of “a vote for a party who won’t get in is a wasted vote” is tiresome and insulting.

          The article above says “Osborne thinks the Tories couldn’t win a referendum to leave.” – those that win in a referendum are the general public and the government who calls the referendum. Osborne has put party before country.

          Where could the opposition go if numerous referendums revealed “the majority of people want us to do A, B, and C” ? – You can’t trust manifestos since the courts said they aren’t subject to legitimate expectation.

        • slyblade

          Hope you will be happy when a Romania gypsy family rock up next door to you.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/S7LUOD2P3JFRDSG2SL7YKQVY7E fred smith

      No. The notion of renegotiation and repatriation of powers, summed up by ‘In Europe but not ruled by Europe’ has been Conservative policy for some years. It’s not a belated response to UKIP.

      It’s always been completely dishonest as there is no way to achieve it and it’s alien to the very purpose of the EU. Van Rompuy and others have been pointing out that the renegotiation within the EU line is a horse that won’t run. The Conservatives have consistently shown by their actions that they are in favour of European political integration and their anti-EU rhetoric has been strictly for the suckers. They’ve always ruled out leaving the EU and still do.

      They’ve stepped it up in the last year or so, but it’s come to a head because of the mess the Euro has created. It’s always been about conning eurosceptic support.

    • blingmun

      Henry VIII feared that Catherine of Aragon had consummated her marriage to Arthur, his older brother, and that their own difficulties in conceiving were a form of divine retribution. Henry’s divorce from Catherine and England’s with Rome were both fraught with politics* meaning that the pressure from advocates of the New Learning, which was rampant in England at the time, tipped court opinion in support of the reformation.

      Still, I’m sure none of this will get in the way of your oversimplifications.

      * Consider Henry’s later marriage to Anne of Cleves, which he did to his chagrin, purely for political reasons.

      • http://www.facebook.com/rfmcdonald Randy McDonald

        Did Henry VIII really fear that, or was it just his excuse to justify marrying a pretty young thing?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-Lewis/100003310756277 Richard Lewis

    The whole system is corrupt….from the EU to the London state right down to the councils

  • supersix

    we should leave EU .we can not take instruction from america :(

  • Jason Ward

    Actually; I think the PM is doing a wonderful job at the Hokey Cokey. You put you’re left party in the European Community, in out in out, shake it all about. Ohhhh Hokey Cokey; Ohhhh Euro broke me….

  • matthias

    If the English want to go, let them go, Europe is better off without them :)

    • Rhoda Klapp

      You are right, but nobody is asking the English. And everybody is lying. Time after time the Spectator runs this story as ‘Cameron in a bind’. Just a story to fill the pages. The future, the various alternative futures for the country, never mentioned. Lies about what powers are in line for repatriation, and the process to be used. No mention of article 50, the only proper way to do it. Lies about what position England/Britain/The UK might be able to negotiate. Lies about our trade with the rest of the EU, and about how much of our legislation comes from there.

      I have asked James Forsyth before (but I don’t know whether he read it) the next time he gets this story from ‘sources close to Dave’ to inquire about the powers and the mechanism. I’m not prepared to accept the way this story is treated without protest.

    • http://www.facebook.com/WSIDigitalAdvantage Peter James

      If you really don’t want our massive net contribution to the EU budget then it will have to be goodbye.

      • matthias

        no other country gets a rebate, plus Europe will work better without the English blocking and vetoing, Britain needs to decide, either be part of a bigger picture or self dependent, both at the same time does not work

        • Rhoda Klapp

          Yes, pretty much everybody here agrees. We want out. Your post is like the english saying to the SNP go on, try it alone. The Scots are not frightened by that, and nor should we be. We managed without the EU before, as do many countries outside it who trade with the EU both ways and do not have to obey ANY of its daft rules.

          • FDUK

            I don’t agree

          • global city

            Can you name any countries that are disadvantaged by not being in the EU? Britain has a unique place in the world so why we lose out when much less globally connected and significant clearly do not?

            So, we have a global role, but the only way to ensure that the UK retains some sort of role is to leave the EU. Saying we have more clout from within the EU is to not understand the nature of the project.

            I’ve just thought. The question I have posed above is actually quite a good one!

        • Mike

          I,d like to meet you in a dark English alley Mathias,!!

        • http://www.facebook.com/WSIDigitalAdvantage Peter James

          Even with the rebate we are the second biggest net contributor.

  • Its_not_craig

    The Right yet again show their ignorance of the World in their dogmatic chase for some panacea outside of the European Union.

    Business leaders denounce an EU exit and are derided as fools – despite everything else they say being lauded as gospel. The rabid right’s answer to all things European “We can trade with the Americans!” has been described as nonsense by the US and is answered with “you can’t tell us what to do”. The Scandinavians, seen as a model for how to trade with Europe whilst not being part of Europe tell us “Trust us, we’d swap with you any day” are mocked and ignored.

    The false calls of the Eurosceptic media who have nothing sensible to add, just frothing-mouthed bile are seen as Biblical truth.

    The imperfect EU is the only hope we have for retaining even a shred of our existing economic strength in the coming Asian century. Leaving it will remove the UK from any influence or growth potential for good. To claim otherwise has neither evidence nor precedent to support it.

    • Rhoda Klapp

      Lies. Insupportable lies. And you damn well know it.

      • MacTurk

        Truth he speaks…. In the event of a Brixit, a lot of businesses, especially in the financial and engineering sectors, will leave, and take the jobs, suppliers’ jobs, income and tax revenue with them.

        You cannot rebut this. Most of the financial sector is foreign-owned, and they will shift operations at light-speed. What is the point of having an EU Banking Passport, if the country you are currently based in has just decided to leave the EU?

        Your partners in “The Special Relationship” have told the UK several times, with increasing stridency, that they would, as a friend and ally, very much prefer to see the UK stay in the EU. Reaction: “Sod off, Yanks!”

        Successive Norwegian governments have stated that they would NOT recommend their current model of relations with the EU to the UK, or any other European state. Reaction; What do those silly Scandinavians know about the evil “EUSSR”?

        But then Eurosceptic/Europhobe opinion in England is impervious to truth, facts, or anything else which might disturb their delusional world view.

        • charles pugh

          so remind me where the banks move to? Frankfurt? Come on. NO one wants to live in Frankfurt! Zurich? Hang on- isn’t that outside the EU?

          • MacTurk

            Dublin, Frankfurt, or any other EU member state city. Paris, given the current idiotic tax policies followed by M.Hollande’s government, is not a likely destination.

            And Switzerland is, now, more integrated into the EU than Britain is. It is a member of the Schengen. So yes, Zurich is a contender.

          • global city

            I wonder if the Tories would implement such anti business policies if we weren’t instructed to? If they say they would not then how can any of them justify us remaining in the EU and largely restricting our trade to this declining part of the world?

          • http://www.facebook.com/rfmcdonald Randy McDonald

            Why not Frankfurt?

    • Mike

      You are a traitorous left wing socialist and should be charged as such with treason. Then you should be punished by the ultimate punishment. I for one would pull the lever on you and any other traitor!!!

      • MacTurk

        You are a delusional idiot, frothing at the mouth at the prospect of killing someone you have never even met.

        Having an fact-based opinion which contradicts your fantasy does NOT, in either the UK or any civilised country, prove anyone’s political opinion, nor constitute treason.

        And Britain does not have capital punishment….

  • http://twitter.com/roymay5 roy may

    Can we have some honesty from the Conservative hard core because we all know the following is FACT.
    Cameron CANNOT renegotiate our terms of EU membership as it is against the rules, so stop lying on this one.
    Cameron CANNOT deport terrorists without appeal, it is a clear breach of the “Human Rights “ legislation.
    Cameron CANNOT deny ANY immigrant benefits, healthcare or education as that too would breach their “Human Rights”.
    Cameron IS POWERLESS to prevent a massive influx of Rumanians and Bulgarians under the EU freedom of movement rules and they CAN and WILL in all probability claim benefits on day one of arrival.
    No doubt your benefit cuts will help to pay the bill and granny will have to sell her home to pay for care after a lifetimes contribution to the state

    So no more lies please just vote UKIP

  • http://twitter.com/roymay5 roy may


    • Niwaki

      Are you a Daily Mail rader?

      • John McEvoy

        “Are you a Daily Mail rader?”
        I expect he pays for it like everyone else.

    • topmutt

      But it’s OK for over 1 million Brits to live in the rest of Europe
      and 1 million more to live in other countries around the world?
      Europe and the West is in decline – and Euroscepticism is the tangible evidence of that decline – a culture of denial rooted in the past

  • http://twitter.com/roymay5 roy may

    The real problem is this. Cameron will never be believed again regardless of any promise he makes over a referendum on the EU. Furthermore the economic position in which the nation now finds itself demands the cuts in public spending that are about to come into force. These cuts will affect many middle class “strivers” who are by and large the backbone of Tory support. That in its self could perhaps not have been such an overwhelming issue were it not for the looming inevitable mass immigration we are certain to receive from Rumania and Bulgaria next year. The “striving” middle and working class will see these new arrivals all legally entitled to housing benefit, job seekers, family allowance and credits together with free access to treatment on the overloaded NHS and free education in our already overcrowded schools. The funding of this will be paid for by OUR taxes and OUR previous NI contributions whilst these people have contributed nothing. Cameron is powerless to prevent this under EU rules and his point blank refusal to hold a referendum on EU membership is his Achilles heel.
    All this talk of reclaiming powers is utter balderdash, you know it and we know it and what is more you know that we know it. The EU will no doubt propose all kinds of spurious red herrings to pretend that they are in awe of Cameron in the hope it will prevent him holding an in/out referendum but alas the public are not as stupid as he likes to think. Cameron has blown it big time and UKIP are milking this with glee and substantial success. I do not expect UKIP to win outright in 2015 but they will destroy any chance of a Tory victory.
    The British public are utterly fed up with our laws being made in the EU and the cringing adherence of our successive governments subservience to the COHR. All this has got to stop and the LIBLABCON need to recognise that they are elected to SERVE the British people.

    I WILL BE VOTING UKIP so its goodby Cameron

  • http://twitter.com/roymay5 roy may

    If I was a Tory or Libdem MP, right now I would be planning my future after 2015. All of you must now realise that the very best you can hope for is a decade or two in opposition if you are lucky, However a large swathe of you will become unemployed so over the next couple of years you need to do some serious sucking up to those who may see fit to employ you. Pontificating about what needs to be done in order to win in 2015 is pie in the sky. Gay marrige, the EU, Immigration and the economy have already destroyed any glimmer of a victory that may have existed. Its time to wake up and smell the coffee. Political defeat is stareing you in the face.Theelectorate will all be watching the major influx of immigrants from Rumania and Bulgaria collecting their family allowance, disability benefits, housing benefits, jobseekers allowances not to mention there free acess to the NHS and education. Meanwhile their family allowance and other benefits and Granny is forced to sell her home

  • http://twitter.com/roymay5 roy may

    Come all the electorate throughout the UK
    It’s time to ignore what the LIBLABCON say
    Lets face it these parties have all had their day
    Our politics need rearranging
    So go out and vote UKIP lets sweep them away
    For the times they are a changing

    Not one of them listens to our point of view
    They’d sooner give our cash to the EU
    So lets kick them out and try something new
    We can’t afford this lot remaining
    Political rethink is long overdue
    For the times they are a changing

    They lied about Lisbon and promised a vote
    There all Europhiles and in the same boat
    Their treachery just bring a lump to my throat
    As each other they just keep blaming
    So send them a message and let them take note
    That the times they are a changing

    We will no longer tolerate lies being told
    Tax breaks for the rich but more tax for the old
    Ruled from the EU and our birthrights sold
    They ignore us when we are complaining
    If we all vote UKIP their out in the cold
    For the times they all need changing

    • Michael Gale

      wow! did ‘you’ write that?

    • topmutt

      Because poetry is going to revitalise the British economy

  • Stuck-Record

    And so it continues.

    The governing classes (all the same beneath their different coloured coats) refuse to do what the people tell them.

    They know better, of course.

  • Austin Barry

    The electorate, for the most part, is not particularly concerned with our ruling elites’ recondite and increasingly incoherent arguments for remaining within the EU: it knows only one undeniable and, to our rulers, heretical, calculation:

    (a) the infrastructure is sagging under the weight of, principally, EU immigration;

    (b) within a year 29 million Romanians and Bulgarians will have full access rights;

    (c) there is a housing shortage, compounded by huge unemployment, a failing NHS, Tower of Babel schools and an unsustainable benefits bill.

    Short of the incipient favelas of Southall backyards beginning to creep towards the salubrious heights of Hampstead, which may actually concentrate our masters’ attention, it is difficult to see how (a) and (b) can be reconciled with (c). In fact, it can’t.

    So, for an increasing number, UKIP represents a refreshing break from the Lab/Con/LibDem conspiracy which got us into this mess and continues to deny its consequences.

    • Stephen Marcus

      The UK is so lucky, has so many options aside from the EU, chiefly the loose construct often called Anglosphere and/or the Commonwealth. There is no reason why Britain can not work out certain terms with Canada, Australia, NZ and maybe even South Africa.
      Forget Germany as a driver of growth when you have India for eventual free trade agreements. America already works so closely with the English speaking, Common Law nations and would end up a de facto member, Even a ‘Virtual Westminster’ is possible now given the state of advanced communications: Imagine MPs not in London but instead at home and online engaged in debate and voting.
      The notion of ‘Imperial Federation’ was impossible 50 years ago, and no one wants anything Imperial; however, but a re-defined Commonwealth as a free trade/economic powerhouse is now a highly possible reality. Given that the old empire now leads the world in IT development (Israel, India), entertainment (Bollywood, UK), Defence (UK, India, Israel), such a organization would transform the world and redefine the Anglo-American relationship.

      • Steve Griff

        Have you forgotten that the UK abandoned the Commonwealth when it joined the EEC.
        You left us to rot on the vine without a care, and now you want us to forgive your past treachery?
        Not a chance in hell, you made your mess, live with it.

        • razzysmum

          I agree with you, Steve…. but business is business and if you have things to sell and we want to buy… would you cut your nose off to spite your face?

      • http://www.facebook.com/rfmcdonald Randy McDonald

        Why, oh why, do Britons who talk about leaving the European Union imagine that the Commonwealth would welcome them back?

        Canada, at least, isn’t waiting for Britain to come back. We’re a mature country now, thank.

        (Perhaps more importantly, a United Kingdom outside of the European Union would be a less attractive trading partner than a UK inside the EU.)

  • egwarren

    It seems abundantly clear that Cameron and his nappy-wearing advisers have either never learnt, or are flagrantly ignoring, the golden rule of negotiating: never disclose what you are wiling to take, certainly not until you’ve got it.

    If I am representing a client in a civil case, suing a Defendant, and we come together for a pre-trial settlement negotiation, it would never cross my mind to tell my opponent that my client has no intention of actually moving the litigation on to trial, and so therefore if you make an offer, however piecemeal, it is likely to be accepted.

    However, this is what Cameron has done. He has made it clear that, if he does not get what he wants out of these negotiations, he will not walk away. Even if he had no intention of ever doing so, the sensible course of action would have been to make clear that he had it in mind to leave if he felt that he could not present this package to the British people. He has lost all leverage at the table, just like that arch-Europhile Blair and his demand that the EU “look at” the CAP in exchange for surrendering a chunk of our hard-won rebate. This renders any discussion of the matter, in its present framework, futile. Of course we all know that Cameron has never wanted to address the issue of Europe with his party; had he been straight with them on his views in 2005, he would never have won, straight with them in 2007, when he was wobbling under the Brown bounce, and they’d have kicked him out too.

    Yes, Europe may well split the Tory Party, as it has done in the past. However, I have never in my life been consulted over the relationship my country has with Europe. The terms on which we voted in 1975 have changed beyond recognition. A clear, open debate (unlikely, I know) has to happen so that we can make an informed choice. If we knew the facts, despite what Boy George says, we’d probably vote to leave. The thought of that man plotting the path to a new settlement, or an election victory, or indeed economic recovery, is enough to make me cry with the sheer frustration of it all.

    • Mike


    • showmaster

      I think you would find the UK split along the North/South, Tory/Leftist lines, pro/anti the EU. One of the reasons that the UK powers that be wish to renegotiate or take back powers is to steal yet more from regional development funds and stash it inside the M25.

      The current government is stealing as much as it can as fast as it can because they believe that they are in the Last Chance Saloon and if they don’t steal it now they will never be given another chance.
      The bankers going public about tax avoidance on their bonuses has exposed Osborne who was doing exactly the same thing with his income from the family firm. We do need the facts about the EU but the incentive for the robbers running the country is to hide the benefits to the public from sight. The biggest “benefit cheats” are the big landowners who pull the Tory Party strings.

  • MrVeryAngry

    It defies belief that so money people remian so deluded about UK membership of the most corrupt and bureaucratic (and failed) club in the world. They can only want to remain part of it for their own benefit.

  • http://twitter.com/purpleline peterb

    If Cameron is weak on this, he will be toast, gone in sixty days after the speech. And I am a supporter of David, I think he has tried to be fair but on this the people must have their voice. This is even more important than Football as Bill Shankly ‘rest in peace’ would understand.

    • Thick as two Plancks

      God help us if this debate is conducted solely by those who think this issue is more important than sport, or women’s fashions, or the supermarket trolleys in the local duckpond.

  • http://twitter.com/Lily_Dubstep Lily Alldub

    Its strange that certain business leaders in London think the single market is better than trading freely with the world by our own rules. Especially when the EU will kill the City of London. How do such short-sighted people run successful businesses?
    A EUrosceptic campaign that calls them what they are – Appeasers – would go down rather well and be difficult for the idiots to fight back without proving that they are indeed, appeasers.
    Jeremy Heywood needs to f**k off. Can’t we get rid of this man? Who can sack him?

    • MacTurk

      First, you cannot trade freely with the world by your own rules. If you want to export to the USA, your goods and/or services have to meet or exceed US standards, or agreed world standards. If you want to export to China, your goods and/or services have to meet or exceed Chinese standards, or agreed world standards. It should be noted that EU standards are increasingly de-facto world standards.

      If Britain leaves the EU, the the City will be dead. The vast majority of the banks who operate there are foreign owned, and they will move at high speed to another EU member state. Oh, and think of all the tax revenue that goes with them….

      Dublin will do very well. Please leave now, Ireland needs the tax money, and the jobs…..

    • http://www.facebook.com/rfmcdonald Randy McDonald

      My understanding is that, if the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, the role of the City of London as financial centre of the European Union will become untenable. Frankfurt, anyone?

  • ScaryBiscuits

    Harold Wilson, one Cameron confidant recalls, ‘set out six things he wanted from the renegotiation and only got one of them’. Well that’s better than Cameron, who has set out no things that he wants and is likely to get none of them.

  • slyblade

    Funny how we are getting fiscal advise from a country that has 17 trillion dollar mountain of debt, and can’t solve its own fiscal cliff issues.

    But then Philip Gordon, the Obama administration’s assistant secretary for European affairs would be saying that now wouldn’t he.

    He’s not the one facing the huge influx of Romanian, Bulgarian, and eventually Turkish immigrants who will all want jobs(if they’re willing to work that is)

    Houses schools and Hospitals and benefits.

    As for Enda Kenny, advice from a country who is one of the net receivers of EU aid and who under her tenureship racked up billions of debt in an orgy of spending

    Which resulted in a 300% hike in the housing bubble. Now she would be saying that, the Irish still have their begging bowl to be filled.

    Fact is we are paying £53 million a day to support all these hangers on whilst are own sovereign debt will top 1.5 trillion in 2015

    It is utter madness. All these siren voices are coming from EU appeasers who stand to lose if we pull out. This is the EU flexing its political muscle to scare us into staying in.

    Truth is they just want us as a cash cow. And our weak and useless politicians will no doubt grant that wish.

    We will now see a heavy bombardment of EU propaganda to brow beat us into staying in. In fact it’s already started.

    Only chance now is to vote UKIP

  • Philip Ford

    Cameron can fiddle ineffectually about the edges of the EU all he wants: I’ll still be voting UKIP at the next General Election. I think quite a few others will be, too.

  • The Oncoming Storm

    Your article again touches on the biggest single mistake we’ve made since Accession, the fact that Whitehall interprets every edict from Brussels as if it was a divine command even if it goes against our interests. The French in particular pay mere lip service to EU regulations and the Commission isn’t prepared to take them on, if only our mandarins took the same view.

    • Daniel Maris

      This is a marginal issue. The French have been brought into line before now by mega-fines.

  • Brian Mooney

    I foresee endless prevarication, such as audits on what powers might desirably be brought back, and promises of jam tomorrow (especially after the next general election that Cameron looks destined to lose).

    Labour failed to bring back a single power in its fraudulent 1975 renegotiation, and my reading of EU law is that getting powers back isn’t possible except by leaving the EU. So Cameron won’t make any bankable commitments – otherwise he’ll get found out.

    The EU legal order is a bit of a con – even if an ‘EU competence’ was suddenly declared to be ‘national’, then the EU can arbitrarily limit how action is taken, or insist that it is subject to many EU obligations, such as that they must act in the interest of further European integration.

    So the weasel word ‘competence’ is more like ‘permission’ not ‘power’.

    Don’t be fooled. Swot up EU case law before swallowing the drug of ‘EU reform’.

  • Roy

    There is hope if the last paragraph comes to some sort of pass. By accident or design, one can hardly hope for an intelligent purposeful result. Just that one might arise from a mistake the fumblers and mumblers could make in their wishful throw of the dice. Then the power decision makers could blame all but themselves. Over time taking the credit for the rise of British independence, the return of English law, the return of border control, and an enlightening free trade options to all global trading.

  • http://www.facebook.com/farit.kashapov Farit Kashapov

    All this reminds performance by actors do not understand ideas Director. Naturally, it’s not the people who make decisions, to all their decisions they fall under the direct or indirect influence from the owners of the financial system.

    When we speak about the profit of the financial system, people understand this as a profit of the banking structure is one-sided. The main destructive and managing factor for the economy are variations in the quantity of money in circulation. With the development of the spheres of production and services, increases the amount of money needed in turnover. The money appears more than need is inflation. And it unearned money. Those who determine the quantity of money in circulation is our owners. The mechanism for determining the amount of money to begin to identify the work of the spheres of production and services and in the General interest, or of the government. This is a departure from the dictatorship of the owners of the financial system healthier market, will take inflation and as a consequence of the impossibility of crises in favor of a group of persons.

  • http://twitter.com/Roger_V Roger Vernon

    The only party with a clear policy on the EU is, of course, UKIP.
    We reject utterly the inevitable fudging by Cameron on a referendum’s terms.
    The choice is clear: A binding Referendum now, not in the indeterminate future, with just two options – “In” or “Out”. You can bet that the EU will throw money at the “In” lobby, aided by the big business cabal.

    The country’s interests must come before those of politicians who love the status quo and the multi-national conglomerates whose only interest is in their profits, as exemplified by the ability to export tax liabilities!

    • M. Wenzl

      I don’t think UKIP’s vision of the UK is at odds with your final point.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Winston-Fahrenheit/1075400062 Winston Fahrenheit

    This is all a waste of time in 2018 when any referendum is offered the EU/Euro will be defunct and finished… all this hot air when it’s game over anyway.. “Time and tide wait for no EU”

  • http://www.reutlingen-university.de Paul Worthington

    The obsessed unificationist EU political cabal are terrified of referenda in any country, because they have been shown in every referendum that the people do not want unification into an undemocratic Kafkaesque bureaucracy based in Brussels, with costly metastases in Strasbourg. The policians’ response is to abandon all principles of democratic accountability and work directly against the wishes of the peoples of Europe.
    Their ridiculous unified currency has already imploded, only being kept afloat by desperate and unsustainable methods, guaranteed to bring future problems even bigger that the ones they pretend to have solved. Their further ramming of their project down the uwilling throats of the people is creating a boiler without a safety valve.
    A courageous British government could be a focal point for common sense in Europe. Run a free market, abolish the meta-state of Brussels. There would even be considerable support for that among the people of Germany, whose crackpot political establishment will not allow them a referendum. Pity that Britain does not do courageous government any more.

    • M. Wenzl

      “Ridiculous unified currency”.

      What is it about monetary union that frightens you so much?

      • Stephen Marcus

        It is impossible without political union. The EU must take on a structure similiar to that of the US (state suject to Fed) for the Euro to ever work. Furthermore, the most be a means by which Brussels can step in and stop a nation like France from aiding PSA because such an act is harmful to VW Group, BMW, GM and other players.
        Either the EU is going to be a nation or it is not. If not, the Euro is a failure.

        • M. Wenzl

          I agree.

  • Dr. Wolfgang Hager

    If you understand French or German, see an excellent ARTE programme at http://videos.arte.tv/fr/videos/quelle-europe-sans-les-anglais–7166324.html

  • Quercy

    Cameron should reflect on the views of the majority of the British voters rather than the views of the ‘business leaders’.

    The erosion of sovereignty, the antidemocratic stance and unaccountability of the Politburo in Brussels are at the heart of the matter. Do we wish to be ruled by a self serving oligarchy in Brussels beyond the reach of the ballot box, or do we prefer to be ruled by the Houses of Parliament?

    Delighted to have friendly neighbours on the continent, but not at all willing to abandon centuries of democracy and constitutional monarchy in favour of rule by the likes of VanRompy, Baroosa and their goons.

    Sadly Cameron will make a mess of it and will succeed in destroying the Conservative Party for a generation.

    He will not help us so we must VOTE UKIP, that we may VOTE OUT!!

  • global city

    Since when have the tories lined up behind this left wing/social democratic notion that it is governments, in ‘partnership’ or independently, that creates trade. The closed custom union that is the EU is a barrier to business growth. The CBI are behind the EU as it’s regulations stifle enterprise, making their boring members more secure… but at what price to the rest of the economy?
    Falling into the trap of mainly disputing the economics of the EU is a distraction from the main issue of our continued membership.
    The political neutering of parliament was exposed in the article above. just imagine how complete it would be in ten years time should we remain in it. Foreign policy is the biggest concern, as this is central to an indepenent nation’s global relations, but the tories understand that this is not part of ANY recalbration, such is its importance to the nation building activities of the EU.

  • MirthaTidville

    Do you seriously think that people will be swayed by what the overpaid fat cats in the City think????…..but the really frightening thought is that a dope like Osborne has influence in the corridors of power..

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.maloney.39904 John Maloney

    Europhile politicians are swimming against the tide. The EU economic dream is over.
    Of far more importance is the lust for more powers which EU leaders are seeking. If they are allowed to, they will create a Federal Europe in which the British people will no longer have a say in their future destinies. We will be controlled, surveilled and policed by an EU force with no affinity towards the British people. There will be no need fo UK polticians, or Parliament. Is this good for Britain or the British people?

    • Stephen Marcus

      The future is outside of Europe. The US can pivot to Asia, and is doing so. The UK has the same option should they transform the Commonweath into something that actually works. In turn, the UK would be at the heart of global business and serve as the global pivot between Asia, the Americas and Europe. Was this not the original goal of the Empire and later the Commonwealth? To allow a tiny nation to punch well above its weight?

  • Bob339
  • Daniel Maris

    Thank God Churchill, Lloyd George, and Gladstone didn’t take 7 months to discover what they want to say.

  • greg mullen

    Back to the days of jingoism and nationalism and bigotry judging by the comments – Britain can’t go it alone – when UK stopped manufacturing and became a so called service industry country followed by the banking chicanery the writing was on the wall. Political games I fear. Has Cameron consulted Mr Obama for permission?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Paul-Shakespeare/715581221 Andrew Paul Shakespeare

      What do you mean “UK stopped manufacturing”? We’re about the eighth or ninth largest manufacturer in the earth. this idea that Britain doesn’t make anything any more is a myth. Utter fiction.

      Even if there were some truth to it, it would still be nonsense. What does Singapore manufacture? What does Norway manufacture? What does New Zealand manufacture?

      What matters in the modern world is having a competitive regulatory regime and tax system. The EU is going in the opposite direction, piling on regulations and constantly seeking to expand its budget.

      Nor would Britain be “going it alone”. The majority of our exports already go to non-EU countries, and while the EU may still represent a major market, it’s a dramatically declining one: it constitutes barely 20 percent of global GDP, down from percent ten years ago, expected to fall to barely 15 percent by the end of the decade. With the Commonwealth countries moving ahead in leaps and bounds, already dwarfing the EU in terms of population and purchasing power, why in the world would we want to shackle ourselves to a corpse like the EU?

  • Daniel Maris

    This isn’t serious politics. It’s beneath contempt. To have serious politics you have first to define objectives and then discuss how to achieve them with a degree of honesty.

    What we have here from Cameron and co. is a failure to define objectives. It’s not clear whether this is because of careerism, stupidity or dishonesty – but neither of those three options is v. good. Anyone interested in the future of this country should surely have a clearly defined view of what our relationship with the EU should be.

  • AndrewMelville

    Out of odd beginnings come great things – such as the freedom from the corrupt corpse of the Roman Church and the rise of a Protestant national Church of England – glorious and miraculous. Let us hope for a similar triumph of truth and freedom over evil bureaucracy, when Britain leaves the stinking corpse of Europe behind it.

  • topmutt

    Demonstrates how deeply embedded in the Conservative angst their perceptions of the French and the Germans in a very stereotypical way
    The West is in Decline, and Europe (including the UK) will go first, here we go again!
    “Those who don’t learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them”

  • topmutt

    Most Eurosceptics are over 50 – it appears that this country is being led to its grave by a gerontocratic takeover of politics, media and all aspects of social and economic life

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