The more David Cameron’s approach to the EU takes shape, the more bewildering it appears. Is he becoming as fanatical about the EU as Edward Heath?
His speech on Wednesday – in which he claimed that Norway would be better off ‘in’ the EU than with its present access to the EU trading area – indicates that he is now aggressively trying to shut down proper consideration of an exit.
Instead, he could easily have called for an audit of the Norway position in the light of current circumstances, thus allowing people to reach their own verdict as part of the overall debate – but his mind is already made up.
Indeed, he appears so keen to stay in – and to want to rubbish the consequences of coming out – that perhaps he puts in the shade even the pro-EU zeal of Michael Heseltine or Ken Clarke. His gung-ho reasoning, dubbed as ‘project fear’ in some quarters, is actually strangely negative – primarily that exit would leave Britain ‘without a voice’ in key areas of policy.
Yet this is utterly specious. The reality is that inside the EU, Britain emphatically does not have a say over vast areas of crucial policy. The fundamental lack of democracy inherent in the EU project is one of the main reasons for entering the ‘no’ camp.
Figures here show that Britain’s MEPs lost 98 per cent of finance resolutions in the past five years and 92 per cent of those relating to constitutional affairs.
Cameron’s bloody-minded, Canute-like pro-EU stance comes at a time when the strategic electoral reasons for supporting wanting to stay in are weaker than ever before. This survey, for example, by the polling organisation NatCen Research, found that almost two-thirds of Britons (64 per cent) do not feel ‘European’ at all – their patriotic allegiance is to the United Kingdom. By contrast, 75 per cent of Germans and 64 per cent of the French feel ‘totally European’.
That negative finding in the UK about the EU comes on top of other opinion polls, such as this last week by You Gov and commissioned by the BBC, which found that nudging 50 per cent of respondents are now considering voting ‘leave’ when the in-out referendum is eventually held.
In his stubbornness to stay in, Cameron is also putting two fingers up to those in his party and the electorate who want genuine, tighter controls on movements of people across Europe.
The most recent EU ‘summit’ showed how desperately out of touch he and the EU ruling class are. Because of their doctrinaire, socialist attachment to free movement, they decided this week they are going to bludgeon all EU states to accept massive numbers of immigrants – with all the social and political consequences – whether they want to or not. The decision led Hungary’s Prime Minister, Victor Orban, to state that in foisting such policies on Eastern Europe, Angela Merkel was guilty of ‘moral imperialism’.
Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, speaking at the second annual Margaret Thatcher lecture in London’s Guildhall also waded into the immigration debate, by illustrating vividly the gulf between Cameron’s support for EU policies and what the electorate truly desires.
He warned European nations that they must introduce much stricter Australian-style border controls or risk ‘catastrophic error’ in not standing up for themselves. If they did not, ‘Western civilisation’ would be at risk. He urged leaders and countries to emulate Thatcher’s style because she had shaped the world rather than passively responding to events.
David Cameron won’t make such speeches, and now seems to accept that at least 318,000 immigrants arriving in Britain each year is the norm, so it was left to an Aussie to illustrate what the Thatcher tradition is actually about. Elements of Abbott’s speech deserve a full airing because the power of his argument – and the sharp contrast to Cameron’s stance – was so strong.
He said: “Implicitly or explicitly, the imperative to love your neighbour as you love yourself is at the heart of every Western policy … but right now this wholesome instinct is leading much of Europe into catastrophic error.”
He added that that once refugees arrive in Europe and in Australia, they had crossed a number of borders and “however desperate, almost by definition, they are economic migrants.
“…people smuggling is a global problem, and because Australia is the only country that has successfully defeated it, twice under conservative governments, our experience should be studied.”
Abbott added that Australia’s border policies required “some force”.
“It will require massive logistics and expense; it will gnaw at our consciences — yet it is the only way to prevent a tide of humanity surging through Europe and quite possibly changing it forever,” he said.
“We are rediscovering the hard way that justice tempered by mercy is an exacting ideal, as too much mercy for some necessarily undermines justice for all.”
He added: “No country or continent can open its borders to all comers without fundamentally weakening itself. This is the risk that the countries of Europe now run through misguided altruism.”
Abbott’s speech also underlines that in nailing his mast so firmly to the ‘in’ camp, and hence to EU policies, David Cameron is digging himself into an elitist, left-wing, anti-voter hole.
Because of Jeremy Corbyn, he may not face a true opposition. But increasingly, he seems as determined as Ted Heath was to sabotage true Conservatism at the altar of EU supremacy.