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Jill Kirby: Dave trapped in a time warp. He doesn’t get the European nightmare


“I get it” said David Cameron, in a last-ditch attempt to persuade voters to trust his party on Europe.

It’s the Prime Minister’s favourite expression these days, often appearing in conjunction with that old political favourite “Trust me.” Sadly, however, he doesn’t get it.

He is not alone.

None of the leaders of the three main parties seem to have grasped how much has changed since the last round of European elections in 2008. Then the euro’s travails were just beginning. Now, Europe is financially and intellectually bust.

Only through linguistic sleight of hand can the EU claim to have kept the financial rules underpinning the Euro. The irreconcilable differences between the economies of the north and south Eurozone have been exposed, along with the price being paid by the south in job losses, poverty and soaring youth unemployment.

The expansion of the EU to encompass relatively undeveloped economies in eastern Europe has shown that declaring a country to be part of a federal union cannot transform its prospects overnight, but merely shifts its population.

The strains imposed by the realisation of the European dream-turned-nightmare are being felt not just in the Eurozone but its neighbours too.

To be Eurosceptic in 2008 was to be on the right of the Tory party. In 2014, Euroscepticism is a mainstream position. In fact it’s the only political stance that reflects reality.

Yet in their campaigns for yesterday’s Euro elections, Conservative, Labour and LibDems still talked as if a federal Europe is still a credible entity, needing only a few modest reforms to make it an engine of growth and prosperity. Sorry chaps, but this engine is clapped out, and nothing you can do will make it roadworthy.

David Cameron has pledged to negotiate a package of reforms, despite the overwhelming evidence that the EU has never, and will not, adapt its rules to suit the UK. And by signalling his determination to remain an EU member, the Prime Minister has undermined his bargaining position before the negotiations begin.

Ed Miliband’s stubborn refusal to countenance a referendum on EU membership shows him to be as out of touch with public opinion as he is with the price of food.

And Nick Clegg’s desire to identify his party with pro-European voters has only served to demonstrate that they are a vanishingly small minority.

No wonder all three of these political big hitters are on the defensive, totally discomfited by a politically-incorrect bloke in a blazer whose 2010 plane crash then looked like a metaphor for his hitherto amateurish political career.

There is one big hitter I haven’t mentioned, who is noticeably not on the defensive, despite being a Conservative politician. This is, of course, Boris, who weighed into the immigration debate this week by pointing out the “deceit” being practised by politicians who promise to shrink immigration in the full knowledge that, thanks to EU rules, they are impotent to do so.

Challenged on the eve of the elections to admit the truth of this observation, David Cameron was forced into a new line on EU immigration: that it will come into equilibrium, as Brits emigrate to other European countries and eastern Europeans return home. Proof indeed that the Prime Minister is in denial about the true state of Europe today and the failure of the European dream.

Sorry, Mr Cameron, but you don’t “get it.” And every time you use that phrase in a bid to placate me and all those other disillusioned Conservatives who have ceased to trust you, I’m afraid I just get a little bit more annoyed.

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Jill Kirby
Jill Kirby
Jill Kirby is a freelance writer, commentator and policy analyst specialising in social policy

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