Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The Coalition's mid-term review on Europe: Bland and blander

Yesterday saw the publication of the Coalition's 'mid-term review', the aim of which was to "take stock of progress in implementing the Coalition agreement" and to set out the government's objectives for the remainder of its period of office.

The Europe section of the review was arguably the blandest part of what was a very bland document overall. So hardly exciting. The government highlighted the "referendum lock" on future treaty changes, disentangling the UK from the eurozone bailouts, and establishing the single European patent as its "achievements" (the first and third are genuine achievements). Like all UK governments in recent decades, it also stressed the need to remove the burden of unnecessary regulation and to secure a tough EU budget settlement.

As ever, the differences within the parties on Europe - though you wonder if they aren't sometimes more perceived than real -  mean that the Government seems unable to set out a 'grand vision'. As the Sun noted in its leader today, 'Europe' remains the "elephant in the room". To be fair, the Labour party, which has the luxury of the purity of opposition, has also failed to set out where, exactly, it wants the UK in Europe.

In other words: we're all still waiting for Cameron's EU speech...

3 comments:

SianClaire said...

If Cameron aims to fashion an 'Europe lite' model after the 2015 elections, will other EU member states wait for the British to decide who they want to govern them at home and what terms of engagement they are going to offer to Europe?

Read more here at www.worldreview.info

Rik said...

@SianClaire
Imho it is highly unlikely that Cameron will get away with postponing bringing the issue up at European level first after 2015.

The 'driver' in this issue is UK local politics. And you simply donot see Cameron getting away with postponing it at least another 2 year.
-Not while his credibility on this issue is close to zero. At least for a large group of voters that look to decide for whom they vote obo the EU issue.
-Not while the EZ/EU might require an earlier change. An promise that the rest will agree with a repatriation looks a) rather dodgy and b0 will unlikely convince many now UKIP voters.
-Not with that much momentum on the issue. UKIP soaring in the polls is a very good indication of that. And the unlikelier he is getting reelected the likelier people are to vote UKIP in the next election. And the more UKIP is put on the UK's political map.

He needs to restore his credibility and even more important that of his party with what is now 15% of the UK electorate. In order to prevent that he is sent home at the next election and even more the UKIP becomes a permanent force. And when the UKIP is a permanent force the Conservatives become by nature the second party in the land and not one of the 2 biggest. The right 50% or so will then be split by 2 parties while the left 50% will go to Labour. Killing in the UK system. Lose 10% of the electorate and you likely lose 20-30% or so of the total of MPs.

Therefor my idea is that somewhere to 2015 he simply will be forced to act.
As there is anyway a substantial chance that will happen (plus the 'Euro-change' will likley be before that he better be prepared.
So he simply has to kick Mr Hague to come up with the report much earlier than originally planned.

Summarised. The issue is mainly driven by local UK politics and it is hard to see Cameron getting away with (post-)2015 overthere. If he doesnot speed up likely the circumstances will simply force him.

Agincourt said...

Cameron's dithering deserves one reward only - a leadership challenge. And preferably a successful one at that! That's the only way his Tory party can have a chance of recovering before the next election due in 2015.

A successful challenge, by a genuinely euro-sceptic candidate, would open up the EU debate beautifully. Especially if the winner either called an early referendum, or decided straightaway to invoke Article 50 (the Withdrawal clause) of the Lisbon Treaty - the only genuinely effective way of negotiating real change within the EU.