Seldom does a Prime Minister display such lack of diplomatic common sense as David Cameron does when it comes to his EU policy. From lecturing in a patronising fashion from the side-lines to exercising an ineffective and unnecessary veto, Mr Cameron has managed to alienate and baffle in equal measure his European partners.
The irony is that Mr Cameron has repeatedly stated that the wellbeing of the Eurozone is in the UK’s interest. He professes that the Eurozone needs to reform if it is to ensure its wellbeing. But in the same breath he says that he is prepared to block those reform efforts. There is something schizophrenic about his approach to EU policy-making.
So, he is adamant that the UK’s contribution to this process of reform will be limited to using it as an opportunity to “take back powers from Brussels” and create a new relationship with the EU, using a veto if necessary. He has based his approach to EU membership on that attempt and he then plans to put its outcome to the British people for a vote.
But this strategy is doomed to fail, as previously argued
. There is very little chance that the UK’s EU partners will allow it to abandon its Treaty commitments while affording it all the privileges of Single Market membership. The Single Market Act (and all the implementing regulations and directives) is a complicated set of rules, which ensure a level playing field for all participating states. Trying to unpick those agreements means the unravelling of the Single Market itself. What is to stop other Member States from asking exemptions from areas they consider cumbersome, areas dear to the UK? It’s like opening Pandora’s Box, which will undo the Single Market and cancel the many benefits it affords its members.
Employing threats while the EU is dealing with issues of an existential nature limits even further the chances of winning allies and achieving his objectives.
So, the Prime Minister will return empty-handed after having failed to “repatriate” powers and change the UK’s terms of EU membership. Even if other members states feel sorry for him and give him some token powers back they will never be enough to satisfy all those Europhobes in his party, UKIP and the tabloid press who he has been trying to appease with fantastical notions of “power repatriation”.
He will then have to put to a vote that failed outcome and be forced to campaign against EU membership, since he has repeatedly stated that, even though he believes that the UK should remain in the EU, the status quo is not acceptable.
Here lies the absurdity in his strategy. His failure will be complete.
Instead the PM should be joining other EU leaders in their efforts to improve the way theEU functions, deepen and widen the Single Market and improve those EU policies that need amending. A winning strategy is made up of constructive engagement, building alliances, providing a vision for the EU and participating in efforts to make that vision a reality. Threats, blackmail and the pursuit of self-interest belong to an area of national conflict, an era the EU replaced long ago with supranational co-operation and consensus building. Mr Cameron should read his history books before making his much awaited speech.