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Nick Wood: Does Europe have a death wish? Does it really want Britain to quit?

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So have Jean-Claude Juncker and Nigel Farage climbed into bed together? Forget about pacts with the Tories, has Nige done a secret deal with the panjandrums of Brussels?

Conspiracy theorists are having a field day today after the European Commission’s spectacularly mistimed demand for Britain to cough up a further £1.7 billion to the EU budget because its economy, managed in defiance of EU orthodoxy, has performed better than most of the rest in the 28-member Union. It is a bit like the golf club secretary fining the club champion for winning too many competitions.

To use the cliché, the Commission’s blundering insistence that Britain pay the price for rejecting the euro and all who sail in her only compounds the perfect storm gathering around David Cameron and his party.

The Clacton by election triumph by Ukip has set the stage for a repeat performance in Rochester and Strood in less than a month’s time. The Prime Minister raises the stakes by pledging to throw the kitchen sink at defector Mark Reckless only to find the polls pointing to another Ukip win.

Then Jose Manual Barroso, the outgoing Commission president and Juncker’s predecessor, uses his farewell tour of European capitals to dismiss Cameron’s calls for a cap on EU immigration.

Now the Commission comes up with a smash and grab raid almost certain to drive British voters into Nige’s warm embrace.

No wonder that Cameron was spitting tacks when he thumped the lectern at his Brussels press conference today and vowed to leave Juncker’s bill unpaid on the doormat.

Conventional wisdom has it that Europe’s leaders do not want Britain to quit the EU. In the old days, when Douglas Hurd was Foreign Secretary and John Major was Prime Minister, we were repeatedly told that Europe was coming our way. Even now, intermittently, we hear about Britain forging alliances with like-minded member states to bat aside the latest Brussels nonsense.

But after this Commission intervention, which could not have been better formulated or timed from Farage’s viewpoint, one has to wonder if the chancelleries of Europe are beginning to think they might be better off without their noisy neighbour across the Channel.

Forget about a change of strategy by Cameron. How about Europe waking up to some British political realities if it wants one of the world’s major economic, military  and diplomatic powers to stay under its ramshackle roof?

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Nick Wood
Nick Woodhttp://www.mippr.co.uk
Chief Executive of Media Intelligence Partners

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