Friday, 6 November 2015

U.K.: The Political-Economy of Cameron's EU policy

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain's EU ties and then hold a referendum by the end of 2017 on whether to remain a member. Cameron's European policy is grounded in fantasy that will never play out. Instead, the UK may be headed for collapse. 

Proponents of leaving the European Union argue that the grouping, far from stimulating Britain's trade, restrains it. An exit (brexit) would allow Britain to trade more easily with the rest of the world while maintaining European links through an association agreement with the EU. The experts warn that Britain's exit from European Union would see less foreign investment in Britain and a showdown in consumption. 

Of course, British people have to debate the UK’s place in the European Union but they must also understand the risks the UK prime minister is taking with his ill-considered referendum promise, his neglect of what a European referendum would mean for Scotland’s place in the UK, and his breathtaking indifference to the effect of a destabilising referendum campaign on investment and GDP growth. 

Cameron, pushed from pillar to post by backbench Tory MPs, has had to promise a referendum on UK membership no later than 2017. He says he would stride from Berlin to Paris to Rome securing agreement to fundamental revision of the EU’s core treaties.

Cameron’s position is fantastical. Neither his suppositions about the reception he would get in EU capitals nor his timetable accords with reality. Angela Merkel and François Holland have not the remotest intention of opening up the treaties – nor would the leaders of those countries, such as Finland and the Netherlands, which traditionally have been more sympathetic to the UK position. Even if they assented, treaty change is lengthy and distracting, forcing such countries as the Republic of Ireland into referendums.
The Scottish National Party's gains in this year election will serve as a springboard for the Scottish parliamentary elections due in May 2016. The platform will be predictable: Scotland will not be led out of the EU by a Tory government. So victory for Cameron in the EU referendum would trigger another referendum on Scotland’s place in the UK. On present evidence, the advocates of independence would win it.
It’s a dismaying syllogism. If the UK leaves the EU, the UK ceases to exist, crumbling into a Tory-dominated England, an independent Scotland and hugely disaffected Wales and Northern Ireland.
So there is one good (domestic) reason the UK must remain part of the EU. A rushed exit, engineered by a partisan prime minister, would further destabilise the UK, potentially leaving a rump “little England”. Many people look at Cameron’s bland face and his presentational skills and think: Surely he is too practical a political leader to allow this scenario to unfold. 

But they fail to see that he is both a strongly ideological and a hugely divisive figure. Under Cameron, class, region, and community have been pitted against one another. It was only late in the referendum campaign that he woke up to the possibility of Scotland seceding and grudgingly linked with Labour in arguing for the union. Over Europe, he has vacillated and wavered.
The future of the UK in Europe has, in other words, become intimately bound up with right-left politics within this country. There is, if you like, a negative reason for opposing exit. A rush for the door could cement the political strength of the reactionary right, the Daily Mail and the Murdoch media that support it. 
Positive reasons for staying in are many and various. The economic case is self-evident. It takes a great effort to reject the data and evidence that says a precondition of sustainable GDP growth is maintaining the single market. The UK’s 21st-century division of labour is keyed to trade across Europe. Markets for energy, financial services, and software are of course not confined to the EU, but commerce within the union provides a platform and “home market” for world trade.
The security case is equally self-evident. Unannounced flights by Russian bombers across the North Sea cannot be separated from instability in the east of Europe. In austerity, the case for defence cooperation grows stronger by the day. Nigel Farage and some Tories spin fantasies about NATO somehow functioning separately from the EU; their recipe would lead to the collapse of Europe into edgy competition and, at worst, the revival of the conflict that scarred Europe for centuries.
Of course, the EU is not a social democratic paradise. Dramatic reform is needed, for example, on the tax front. But this club has never, despite Franco-German rhetoric, been based on a single model or path. There always has been and there remains a UK “take” on institutions and programmes, which may align with the view of other member states, or may not – that is the stuff of diplomacy and negotiation, skills that under David Cameron have been rotting away.
Cameron's EU policy threatens UK participation in the EU with dire jeopardy, huge geopolitical, economic, and security consequences – for the rest of the EU, certainly, but principally for the civility, prosperity, and social liberalism of Britain.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Investigative Journalist
World Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit: AFP- UK Prime Minister: David Cameron