So, it is finally delivered. I have just finished watching David Cameron’s big speech on Britain’s relationship with Europe and I think it is fair to say that Tory Eurosceptics had a much bigger influence on Cameron’s position than pro-European voices. Peter Mandelson, rightly in my view, called the speech ‘schizophrenic’ as it really says ‘my way or the highway’. Given the hostility against unilateral renegotiation and the fact that all member states have to agree on treaty change one cannot help but think that Cameron has put himself into a tight corner. The reaction of eurosceptic MP’s is was also very telling, just have a look at the reaction of Douglas Carswell on Twitter:
I also agree with Phillip Blond and Paul Mason about the line that completely brought Cameron at odds with the approach on the Continent. Cameron thinks there is no European demos, implying that there is no, and cannot be, a proper European democracy. Following from this, his ‘network’ approach to the EU can only mean an intergovernmental and lose network of fully sovereign nation states. This is completely at odds with the now accepted wisdom that the Eurozone has to integrate further to make it future proof. There is a massive difference of philosophy here and I am afraid that this circle cannot be squared.
He also went on about the single market a lot, saying that it should be the heart of the new European Union. But the problem is that what he calls ‘repatriation of powers’ is really undermining the rules that govern the single market. You cannot have it both ways: decide the rules that suit you and make everybody else abide by them whereas opting out of the ones that you don’t like and therefore gaining an advantage. Here too, I don’t think that the situation can be resolved easily.
Where do we go from here? I see only one viable option, which is creating a loser tier of EU membership where countries that permanently do not want to join the Euro are situated. This is a new deal for a group of countries, not one country, given that Eurozone countries and countries that want to join the single currency are very likely to integrate further. But even then a relationship that destroys the level playing field in the single market by opt-outs is out of the question.
What is also worrying is the schedule. Cameron said that the renegotiation and a clear-cut in-out referendum should take place in the next parliament, so not before 2015. What happens between then and now? The Eurozone will go ahead earlier. Does this mean that he will just wave through everything the Eurozone wants to do or does it mean he will continue to make progress difficult? Also he should be under no illusion that Eurosceptics in his party and UKIP want a full exit, not a new relationship. So it is unlikely that they will be satisfied with what he offered.
All in all I am afraid this speech has just created years of uncertainty and none of the real issues have been resolved.