As Parliament broke up for Christmas many Conservatives stayed behind to discuss the nation’s big issue – what would a new relationship with the EU look like? How can it be brought about? How can we make a start in this Parliament, when no party has a majority?
President Obama and the UK establishment’s recent intervention to tell us the US does not want the UK to leave the EU was a foolish piece of spin. Try to bully Eurosceptic Brits, and we become more determined, not less. It was a crushing irony that the President of the land of the free and the Leader of the Free World should be telling its former colonial power to stay in a dependent relationship with the EU. Mr Obama is understandably proud of those English gentlemen living in the USA in the eighteenth century who threw off government from London, so why does he expect us to accept so much government from Brussels?
Similarly, various continental threats that the UK would no longer be able to trade with the EU part of the continent serve to unite British people in wanting a looser relationship, or wanting out altogether. No-one sensible believes the threats. The UK would want to allow French and German goods to still have access to our market. Arrangements would be made. They could be made by a new agreement, or under world trade arrangements. Germany would not wish to lose sales of her popular cars in Britain.
Many Conservative MPs now agree that the matter of UK membership will not wait until the 2015 election to be resolved. Nor do we think that there will come a time when the continentals need a new Treaty, maybe in 2014, which offers a better chance for a UK renegotiation. After all, there is a new fiscal Treaty going through for the rest of the EU right now, because the UK rightly refused to sign it, and witheld consent for it to be a proper EU Treaty. The UK has to accept that the EU is in a state of constant and agitated renegotiation of many of its terms and functions, with a view to hastening full economic, political, fiscal and banking union. That is why the UK has to make a start on establishing this new relationship now.
The balance of forces in this Parliament provides a big majority against immediate withdrawal from the EU. Lib Dems are federalists. The overwhelming majority of Labour MPs wish to stay in. There is a group of Conservatives prepared to vote to come out immediately, but most Conservatives wish to negotiate with the EU before letting the nation decide whether to stay in on new terms or to leave. That also seems to be the majority view of the British people. A handful of Conservatives, like many in the other parties, wish to remain in come what may. Tomorrow I will look at Mr Cameron’s options for the speech