So, we finally get to see Dave’s ‘EU reform’ package, and it’s not exactly huge, is it? He promised to go to Brussels and ask for a Bentley, but actually asked for a Suzuki Alto. What he’s come back with are the seat covers for a battered second-hand Trabant, and even those are only on the promise of a loan.
Failure, farce, or both? Let’s face it: Dave didn’t ever even intend to try to win significant reform. To me, the most astonishing feature of his statement to the House yesterday was his ability to tell the most incredible porkies about the ‘strong and powerful’ success he’d achieved, while keeping a straight face.
Two years ago, when Ukip was rising quickly in the polls and Tories nationwide were leaving Dave for Nigel, Dave made a big speech on the future of the EU at Bloomberg and promised an in-out referendum. “Nothing should be off the table,” he said, and laid out reforms he said were necessary, on migrant jobs and benefits, immigration, justice and human rights, and returning laws on energy, environment, crime, social affairs business and employment, so the UK parliament had the last say. The sensible and honest among us shook our heads, knowing he didn’t stand a chance of getting even this, which still left out a whole swathe of issues in which we are in hock to Brussels, not least farming, fishing and financial services.
But on went the charade. Slowly the big issues he’d pledged to tackle were dropped. The EU referendum, which is, of course, in reality a referendum on the very future of our country, the supremacy of our own parliament, and the preservation of British democracy and the British identity, was spun into being a referendum about benefits. We had the staged ‘bang the table row’ with France that Andrew Lansley MP let slip was part of the strategy to pull the wool over our eyes. We had endless coverage of dinners and talks and stalemates; more dinners and more hot air and more dinners and more stalemates. We had faux Eurosceptics like Mark Pritchard MP muddying the waters, and plenty more putting their career before their country.
It’s pretty obvious that what we’ve been watching is a re-run of what Harold Wilson did in 1975: tell the people a lie about what we should stay in, i.e. a ‘Common Market’ (for which substitute ‘Reformed EU’), and then claim ‘significant concessions’ have been made (when they clearly haven’t). Back in 1975 all that was achieved was a small change in the tariff on imports of New Zealand butter, but it was hailed as momentous. Now we are expected to fall for this pantomime again and believe giving at least 14 other countries the power to decide what we can or can’t do constitutes major reform.
Despite the scorn of the press, Dave clung to his spun lines and claimed he’d met Tory manifesto commitments. He lauded the ‘emergency brake’ to limit child benefit paid to EU children not resident in the UK, and prevent new migrants claiming full in-work benefits for four years in times of crisis. What nonsense: the Tory manifesto actually promised a complete ban on sending child benefit overseas, and said migrants shouldn’t claim any in-work benefits unless they had lived here and contributed for four years. There was no mention of any ‘crisis,’ the definition of which in any event won’t be adjudicated by us.
As for his ‘Red Card’ deal to prevent the UK having to implement legislation it opposes, William Hague savaged the idea back in 2008, saying it was so ineffective it would be impossible to use it to overturn an EU Commission proposal to slaughter the first born. Watch the video – you can see Cameron nodding and laughing along. The veto only kicks in if 55 per cent of other national parliaments agree, meaning we have to get the support of at least 14 other countries at the moment, and potentially 27 others, if the EU fulfills its plans for complete domination of the whole of the Europe.
As one of my followers on FB noted: “If we can’t get 14 points in Eurovision, how are we going to get 14 other countries to support us in the EU?” Or another: “It’s not an emergency brake we need, it’s a bloody steering wheel.”
Cameron lied through his teeth in parliament when he claimed he had won ‘guarantees’ we won’t join the Euro, or leave Schengen, or get an EU army, or fund any more bailouts. We have no such guarantees, and the EU still controls us.
His negotiations, and his speech yesterday, to crib Shakespeare, might have been full of sound and fury, but signified nothing. Dave has achieved nothing, and the outcome of his sham negotiations are being spun exactly as expected.
For me, the most telling line in his speech was his claim to have secured UK parliamentary sovereignty by ensuring that: “as far as possible powers should sit in this parliament.” That line tells you all you need to know: Cameron is putting the EU first, ahead of the UK. Like Harold Wilson before him, we see in our PM a man who simply doesn’t want his country back, and certainly isn’t prepared to stand up for it.
(Image Courtesy Kroon, Ron / Anefo; Nationaal Archief (NL), Wikimedia Commons)