Is the EU about to give Cameron his winning ticket?
Yesterday, he reiterated that the Party would avoid 'instant confrontation' with EU.
But it transpires that they may be forced to call early UK referendum on a new EU treaty being suggested by Germany.
It appears that the
Chancellor Merkel is of the opinion that a new treaty is required to create a new European Monetary Fund able to bail out crisis-hit members of the euro like Greece. It will be the Fiscal Federalism Treaty – effectively be a further power-grab over taxation and spending. All, of course, under the guise of ameliorating the EU’s ‘economic governance’.
In the political fallout following the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty and the cross-party ratting on the promised referendum, both Labour and the Conservatives stated unequivocally that any further treaties would be put to the British people in a referendum. David Cameron promised a Sovereignty Bill to put a ‘referendum lock’ on all future negotiations.
As inconvenient as it might be for all three main parties for an ‘EU confrontation’ to enter the General Election campaign, it is really a glorious opportunity for David Cameron.
While Labour and the LibDems bang on about being ‘at the heart of Europe’, the ‘national interest’ and the need for cooperation with our ‘European partners’, the objective will be to portray the Conservative Party as ‘xenophobic’, ‘right-wing’ ‘little Englanders’, allied with ‘extremist’, ‘homophobic’ and ‘racist’ groups in the European Parliament.
The problem is that the overwhelming majority of the electorate are instinctively in tune with the Conservative disposition on this matter. It is not, of course, that they are ‘xenophobic’, ‘right-wing’ or ‘phobic’ ‘little Englanders’, but they are patriotic, discerning and moderate, with genuine concerns about uncontrolled immigration and the unelected, unaccountable, immovable beast to which our once-omnipotent Parliament is now but an ornamental, ineffectual, expendable regional talking shop.
James Kirkup is of the opinion that any new treaty ‘could cause serious headaches for both Labour and Conservatives alike’.
He refers to Gordon Brown’s promise: ‘I can confirm that, not just for this Parliament but also for the next, it is the position of the Government to oppose any further institutional change in the relationship between the EU and its member states.’ (Hansard, 22 October 2007).
Which rather ties the Prime Minister’s hands.
And the position of the Conservatives: ‘A Conservative Government would change the law so that never again would a government be able to agree to a Treaty that hands over areas of power from Britain to the EU without a referendum.’ (CCHQ)
But Cranmer is bemused by Mr Kirkup’s pessimism.
A great ‘Euro-battle’, a ‘confrontation’ with the EU, or a ‘bust-up’ with our ‘European partners’ is exactly what we need: it would invigorate the coming months of interminable ‘Red Tory’, ‘New Labour’, ‘centre-ground’ tedium no end.
It would highlight New Labour’s manifesto betrayal and the Prime Minister’s decision to renege on his referendum promise; it would call Nick Clegg’s bluff on his 'power to the people' mantra; and the Conservatives would witness an instant boost in the opinion polls.
If proof were needed of the reality of the federalist-fiscal threat, Daniel Hannan tells us that MEPs have voted overwhelmingly in favour of an EU ‘Tobin tax’ – that is a tax on all financial transactions.
And he reports that they voted 536 to 80: only the European Conservatives and Reformist group and a handful of radicals opposed the motion.
The Spectator says this vindicates the Cameron-Hague decision to leave the EPP, who, being pathologically federalist (in a continental sense), voted uniformly in favour.
Any such tax would grant the EU its longed-for elixir of direct supra-national taxation, but it would burden the City with punitive transaction costs and the whole proposal is inimical to British interests.
On the face of it, an intervention by Chancellor Merkel and (doubtless soon) by President Van Rompuy at this point in the UK’s electoral cycle is foolish.
Yet Greece has forced the agenda, and so a bruising debate about Britain’s economic relationship with the EU appears to be both imminent and unavoidable.
But this is not a ‘headache’ for Mr Cameron: it is a heaven-sent opportunity for him to talk about the absolutes of sovereignty, to proclaim the immutable conservative principles and expound his inviolable ‘red-lines’.
And if the German Chancellor will not listen, let Mr Cameron not only threaten but promise what our Lords and Masters in Brussels most fear: a UK referendum on Britain’s future relationship with the EU.
It would not only trump Labour, it would neuter the LibDems and sink UKIP.
And David Cameron would walk to victory.