Mr Cameron’s article yesterday in the Sunday Telegraph did represent an important advance in government thinking. He now agrees with those of us who say we need a new relationship with the EU. He agrees it is not just a case of saying “No” to future transfers of power, but getting powers back that have already been ceded.
I also agree with him that holding an In/Out referendum soon would be bad news if the In campaign won. The Uk would then have little bargaining power to get a better relationship, and would have lost the chance to leave the EU if things got worse. Mr Cameron also made it clear that in the unlikely event of an In/Out referendum soon taking place, Ministers in the Coalition would side with Labour, the Lib Dems, the CBI and probably the TUC in an attempt to make it a re-run of the 1975 referendum to secure a Yes vote. Many Conservative members and MPs would of course be campaigning for a No vote if the only thing on offer was In on the current terms or Out.
The government needs to add to its new realisation that the UK needs a different relationship with the EU to defining that relationship and getting on with negotiating it. MPs have done a lot of work in the last two years listing all the many powers the EU has taken, appraising the poor performance resulting from many EU policies, and setting out what the UK needs to get back to become once again an independent country. The Foriegn Office is aware of all this work. It is high time Mr Hague set out in a speech what a new relationship based on trade and friendship rather than common governemnt would look like.
The government is wrong to say we cannot make a move now owing to the problems of the Euro zone. We need to make the move now for just that reason. The UK needs to be free of any financial liability from the Euro troubles, and free of the extra government the EU will now seek to impose to try to “save” the Euro. As the EU will need UK consent to their pushing ahead for a more comprehensive union, the UK is well placed to say as they want more EU power over their lives we intend to have less. We should travel in the opposite direction.
The governemnt should see what it can negotiate and then put it to the vote. The referendum question should simply be “Do you want to stay in the EU based on the new deal on offer?” The fact that it would be put to a vote would put some pressure on the rest of the EU to offer us a relationship we can accept. The fear of loss of a very lucrative export market for France and Germany, and the worry that we might no longer make any financial contributions to the EU if we decide to leave, should persuade them to offer us something sensible. The choice anyway will be ours, and many UK people are fed up with the EU so would like to be out altogether.