Cameron's problems with Europe


Swing Mrs Thatcher's handbag but avoid isolation. Threaten to use the veto but do not waste your energy on negotiations that will not deliver.

That is a summary of the occasionally bewildering advice being given to the prime minister at the beginning of his big week in Europe.

Bewildering because some people appear to be arguing for two apparently contradictory positions. A big week because on Thursday David Cameron heads to Brussels for negotiations on the next seven-year budget for the EU.

So what is going on? The answer is politics is what's going on. The man who won his party's leadership telling the Tories to stop obsessing about Europe now has no choice but to do exactly that thanks to ....

Problem 1 - The Rest of Europe

The UK does not have any support for a cut in the EU budget. The government has or, at least did have, allies for its call for a real-terms freeze but most other governments have more pressing concerns. The Germans have their eyes on the future of the euro and a potential massive bill their taxpayers will have to pay if it collapses.

The Dutch are more concerned about protecting their rebate, which is about to run out. The French have a new government which is anti-austerity and, like all its predecessors, wants, above all, to protect French farming.

"Just say No," say Eurosceptics. Swing that handbag, says Boris. Look at the boost in poll ratings you got when you stood alone last December, they say.

There's just one problem with that advice. The other 26 EU countries have shown a willingness to go ahead without the UK. According to the Financial Times, some are contemplating agreeing annual budgets without the UK's support which would actually cost British taxpayers more.

Problem 2 - The Rest of the Conservative party

The Tories used to be split between pro-Europeans and Eurosceptics. They are now split between Eurosceptics and those who are prepared to leave the EU... oh, and Ken Clarke and Michael Heseltine.

Today David Davis adds his voice to those arguing that the only way for Britain to forge a new relationship is a threat to leave based on an in/out referendum.

Last week's elections mean that even those Tory MPs who don't obsess about the EU feel the hot breath of UKIP on their necks.

With the PM promising a defining speech on Britain's relationship with the EU before the end of the year, they are exerting maximum pressure.

Problem 3 - Labour

Ed Miliband is determined to portray David Cameron as the new John Major - weak at home and weak abroad. He will tell the CBI there is a danger that Britain could sleepwalk out of the EU.

He will, at the same time, argue for reform of the EU or what some Tory papers have misunderstood as Euroscepticism. They are encouraged by his willingness to work with Eurosceptics to defeat the government.

In truth, Labour has yet to form its approach to Europe. What it's doing is telling the country that the PM is too weak to lead on Europe while working with his enemies to weaken him. That's what opposition parties do.

David Cameron told the CBI that he was not embarrassed about saying No, which suggests he's more worried about problems 2 and 3 than 1.

Nick Robinson, Political editor Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    #128. nautonier

    You have completely changed the topic. Your allegation that the EU is fascist is pretty serious. The Encyclopedia Britannica entry on fascism belies your assertions.

    Some explain "fascist demonologies as the expression of irrationally misdirected anger and frustration."

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    Is a complex issue - see eg

    International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Vol. 1 No. 5; May 2011

    242 - The Problem of “Democratic Deficit” in the European Union
    Kübra Dilek AZMAN

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    #126 nautonier

    EU's Member States are all liberal democracies; it is an essential precondition of membership. Each member state discusses, votes on and decides on all EU matters at the Council of Ministers; collegiate decision making.

    The European Parliament has been elected by universal sufferage since 1979. Been asleep for the last 33 years?

    The autocratic dictator is who?

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.


    Fascism - Merriam Webster dictionary defines it to have a 2nd meaning as 'a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control'
    Fits like a glove - unless you're a MEP 'EU expenses millionaire' & don't wish to talk about it?

    'Strong autocratic or dictatorial control' ... is enough - Suggestion - Get someone to explain it to you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    #87 nautonier

    Dictionary unknown, try OED, Encyclopedia Britannica; or even Wikipedia.

    "Fit like a glove?" It fails to meet any definition criteria. No nationalism, dictator, martial force, etc. However, prejudice, shown #87 is capable of satisfying a false alternative, interpretation.
    Hatreds: foreigners, Liberals, Conservatives, Soc Dems? Sound familiar?

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    No110 Naut,
    I did listen to Rodney not too long ago.
    The work has been meticulously researched & is internationally recognised.

    Other than your own 'opinion' - Do you have any evidence to refute any or all of what Rodney Atkinson has written?

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    Sorry if misled @119

    "Accountability" has to be 'in the mirror', at the breakfast table, with colleagues 260-degrees, and customers-all, NOT to The Inquisition, burdensome paperwork, officious intrusion, and the occasional ignorant kangaroo-court

    There can be no "true democratic institution" (not even the newest of new police commissioners) without Equal Partnership as context

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    No110 Naut,
    I did listen to Rodney not too long ago. Rodney off 'All Fools and Horses' made more sense.
    I came away with the impression that he had been associated with numerous right wing lunatic factions for a considerable time.
    His references to 14th century German rural life was particularly hilarious.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    119.All for All
    nautonier @117
    "the danger"

    Is a lack of democracy/accountability
    Anyone who attacks true democratic institutions such as the new police commissioners
    Apathy & lack of responsibility of all & sundry - not taking an interest, speaking out & urging some to probe, question & confront
    Failure by all & sundry - for 'accepting' as fooled by lack of transparency & rhetoric

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    The problem, I guess, with the EU at present is that it has never been suborned to the will of the people of Europe. Until that happens there will always be struggles with and over the structures.

    At present the struggles are four way: national politicians, the Eurocrats, the Europols (MEPs) and the 'shadowy insiders' who think the EU is their grand achievement to possess.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    nautonier @117
    "the danger"

    Are we agreed, 'danger' lies in the unrepresentative unaccountable power of individuals, clans, classes, nations - led to betray common humanity?

    And that 'we' - even now, all of us - are led to such betrayal (TV-supper watching 'the news') by 'perverse incentives', inevitably dictated within ANY society that fails to understand, agree and preserve Equal Partnership?

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Camerion missed chance to call for Emergency in 2007/08

    For economic 'rebalance', in a fast-changing world, UK & EU needed equal income rations, stable demand, all to pull together

    With Coalition re-kindling of crisis, commendation re-issued for Equal Partrnership: no intelligent response

    Depths plumbed, at last perhaps signs of Cameron urgency, albeit erratic: Euro stimulus and UK brakes-off

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    112.All for All
    nautonier @110

    "The Danger" is not to be fled, but to be confronted
    well almost final word ...
    The 'danger' is in not confronting and in saying nothing and being 'sleep-walked'.
    The lesson of history - is that it repeats itself - over and over again

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    fedup @113
    "just a label"

    'Fascists' right and left, but not 'centre'?

    Perhaps no matter if, in Heaven on Earth, the 'dustbin of history' is treated as 'for compost', its words become remote, mercifully indistinguishable, irrelevant

    Meanwhile, no respite from the ills you describe as 'fascist', until we understand & agree Equal Partnership

    Need to arm the innocent against the odd sociopath

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    The problem with the reform argument is that there has been no sign of any ability to do it when faced with the vested interests. How long has the CAP been recognised as being in need of reform and how much has been done?? This is not a club where members have a common aim and willingness to work together but is one where everyone is out for what they can extract from the others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    fedup @113
    "read your history"
    And your dictionary?

    Words have histories, of many usages, some finding 'common usage', as in 'fascism' related to the 'heroic right wing', and 'communism' related to the 'heroic revolution'

    Complex phenomena, but both relying on 'spoils for loyalty', both 'for some reason' have excited 'oppositions' and degenerated as you describe

    Do you see 'the reason'?

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.


    Fascism - A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.

    Applicable to left or right wing parties, read your history. For most of you here, it's just a lable you stick on anyone with a different view.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    nautonier @110

    Thanks for "Bean's big brother", truer than seen?

    Most know the probability of 'roles for the powerful' (ancestral fascists or unionised arrivistes) behind political 'education & solutions'

    The gross imperfections, even deceits, in 'European Design' are reflections of the same faults in our national lives: please acknowledge

    "The Danger" is not to be fled, but to be confronted

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    It is so amusing to see all the Politicians shifting around tying themselves in knots trying to adjust their positions to appear to be in step with public opinion in order to keep their votes. A majority of Joe Public wont be told what to do by Brussels/Strasbourg and claims that the EU has won Peace In Our Time carry no weight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Fascist origin of the EU
    See video there - fascist origin of the EU
    Need a clear & historically accurate view on all of this - listen to Mr Bean's big brother
    See video there - fascist origin of the EU
    Many on here are 'brain-washed' & don't understand the danger that the EU presents to all of Europe & not just the UK

    RED for DANGER !


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