Coffee House

The Conservative renegotiation strategy

27 October 2012

In The Spectator this week, Charles Moore argued that David Cameron — despite his oft-stated desire to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s EU membership — doesn’t actually have a European policy. Charles’ criticisms have clearly stung. For in his Telegraph column, he outlines what post-2015, the Conservatives would seek in any renegotiation:

“In essence, the scheme is to turn the EU into two concentric rings. The inner ring shares the euro and undergoes political union. The outer ring avoids both these things and has a looser, trading membership grounded in national parliamentary sovereignty.
You could say that this split already exists, in fact if not in theory, but the difference is that, in the emerging model, the EU would be legally reconstituted. The inner ring would not be permitted to dictate to the outer. The Brussels version of Sauron’s “one ring to rule them all” doctrine would be broken at last. The authors of the idea expect that it will appeal to other EU member states who either fall out of the euro in coming years, or shy away from joining it, and also to members of the European Economic Area. But if it did not do so, they would still go ahead and negotiate these terms for Britain alone.”

There are two major concerns about this approach. The first, as Charles points out, is that the best moment to negotiate might come with a new treaty before 2015. The second is whether the rest of the European Union would agree.

As Charles emphasises, for this approach to have any chance of success, the British government would have to be prepared to make clear that it would leave if it didn’t get the lion’s share of what it wanted. Without that threat, it is hard to see the 26 other countries even contemplating such a radical reconstituting of the European order.

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Show comments
  • Barbara Stevens

    The British government would seek to have all of their wants in one go, and if they don’t then what? I can’t see any of the others allowing that to happen and Cameron will be in stalemate. Of course he could say we will walk away, and the nation would walk with him willingly, may be he knows this already and this his last stand and ammunition. If he assumes he can do has he pleases well he can’t for 100 of his own MPs are ready to defy him. What I cannot understand is his thinking, if he did hold a referendum he would have mandate from the people for renegociation which would give him a strong hand. Expecting us to accept that one would be held after the next election is not good enough and unacceptable, and he may find trust in him wavering, and votes going to UKIP by their thousands. He should show is colours and let us all decide for its our destiny and his own he holds in his hands; and its not a decision he should make alone.

  • Worden Report

    Even if a ploy, Cameron’s refusal even to negotiate on the forthcoming E.U. budget undercuts the policy-level of the E.U. at its core, due to the salience of the member-states via the European Council. Negotiation is effectively required, particularly given the power of the veto on so much major policy. For more, pls see my essay at The Worden Report.

  • james102

    One aspect not discussed is the fact that if you have a political class then the European political structure is in their interests.

    It is not really about whether this one is a Europhile or not any more than whether accountants prefer societies with complex tax and accountancy regulations or lawyers approve of legal aid, no win no fee and a litigious society.


    Repeat: Message to OQS; get your heads outta your arses; there is major scandal breaking over the Pond, it’s called BENGHAZI. Cover it – you pusillanimous pricks!

    • FRANKP1

      … and if you don’t believe me, read your erstwhile and esteemed columnist, whose shoes none of you could fill:

      • Coffeehousewall

        i agree entirely with Frank. Why is the Benghazi scandal not being mentioned, let alone covered? What is going on?

      • HooksLaw

        Confusion is not the same as a scandal.
        But since the Democrats would be spreading smears even more avidly if the tables were turned, you cannot blame Steyn.

        • FRANKP1

          Confusion my arse! It was deliberate dereliction; four lives sacrificed to the re-election campaign, so that O’Bastard could perpetuate the myth that he had defeated AQ. In my book that’s a scandal that should subsume the salacious shit that is being peddled in all the headlines by the British MSM. It is hardly news that Pop Stars have taken advantage of the myriad opportunities available to them to ravage young flesh, with the collusion of Broadcasting Executives, themselves often implicated; the casting couch and the grooming of child stars, even, is hardly new. Hollywood was built on debauchery. Yet the Security of the West under threat from Islam is a minor matter – just a little ‘confusion’.

          Hook off!

          • HooksLaw

            You arse off. You are saying the US president deliberately left embassy officials to die?

            I support Romney BTW. I think Obama is useless.

            • Rhoda Klapp

              We await an explanation of why the various parts of the administration did what they did. A cockup on the night, possibly, but a coverup afterwards to sweep it under the carpet for the duration of the campaign, that seems very likely. Now, as to the question of why you can only find discussion of this on US websites and cable news stations of a vulpine persuasion but not in the UK media, I can only say that we have the media we have, not what we ought to have.

              • HooksLaw

                You may well be right about cover up, who knows, not me.
                But when loony Democrats try to smear Bush I complain. I do the same if loony Republicans do the same.

                As I said, the Democrats smear (like the absurd smearing of Bush after ‘Katrina’) so I cannot blame Steyn for pointing out this seeming cock up. It it were deliberate BTW then Obama should be arrested.

  • Derek

    There doesn’t seem anywhere else on this site to register the fact, but – hey guys! there’s a presidential election campaign under way in the USA and one or two controversial matters have been raised about the punk incumbent…

  • In2minds

    Funny, says Rhoda Klapp, funny indeed that at EURef Richard North sorts out
    the Article 50 thingy but the rest of the pack ignore it. But then
    our leaders and the MSM don’t do detail when it comes to the EU. Then
    we have the quality of trolls who post on behalf of Cameron. Endless
    mention of Norway and the single market but again without the
    slightest understanding of the detail.

    • james102

      Yes the Norway thing is very annoying.

      Richard North and Christopher Booker are extremely valuable but few people read books such as their:”The Great Deception”

      Vague statements such as “largest trading partners” “isolated” and “Little Englander” (is that a translation from the German? ) have been used successfully to shut the debate down.

      We have now moved on and there is an inevitability about the next stages. The choice for our political class is do they go along with it from the beginning or wait?

  • Boudicca_Icenii

    I suggest people take the 20 minutes or so necessary to read the comments in response to Charles Moore’s piece in the Telegraph.
    They are overwhelmingly negative. The vast majority do not want to be in the EU in any way, shape or form and they do not believe that Cameron can be trusted.
    The CONs won’t be in power after 2015 and it is lookingly increasingly possible that Cameron’s only real legacy will be the destruction of the Conservative Party on the alter of EU integration/membership.
    Vote UKIP. We want OUT of the EU.

    • HooksLaw

      Do not make me laugh! Telegraph comments? Loony tune hysteria, the meeting place of nut jobs like you.
      Your final comment shows indeed what a total nut job you are – vote to guarantee the return of a eurpophile labour govt.
      You are totally bonkers. Again and again you refuse to accept what OUT really means anyway. It means being in the EEA it means being in the single market and it means abiding by EU regulations, and still paying money to the EU.
      The difference to being IN or OUT is marginal and not worth the agitating which would lead to a Labour govt.

      The EU exists its not going to go away, and will always have an effect on us. The important issue for the future is that we ensure a good deal for us when the Eurozone chose to ensnare themselves ever closer together.

      • Boudicca_Icenii

        Sticks and stones HooksLaw. Keep the insults coming …. you are insulting what used to be your core voter-base. Every time we get insulted our membership rises.

      • Bellevue

        @HooksLaw……might I politely suggest that you go to and read some of R North’s posts. It would at least give you a different perspective, and might even change your mind. You must read about 10 of them, I would suggest. Please try….

      • ThreeCheeseFondue

        More ad hominems HooksLaw? What a surprise, not.

      • ArchiePonsonby

        And you would class your comments as calm, measured, thoughtful and reasonable I suppose?

  • Justathought

    Without a written constitution we are at the whim of capricious judicial decision making and a coalition divided over the EU. So while the Germans can refer back to their constitutional Court and the Irish have a constitutional right to a referendum before every treaty we have no such recourse.
    To announce a commitment to a referendum before 2015 would light the torch paper at the worst possible time. Also the EU know they will have stitched up a new treaty before 2015 while we are preoccupied with a stall speed economy, EU parliamentary elections and a referendum on Scotland.

  • Jez

    Here’s a question and I need to know the answer;

    WHY does Cameron- or anyone really want to shackle themselves to this anymore.

    The negotiation situation is so blatantly out of the Europhiles control but an utter lack of pro British initiative from the Tories.

    There’s a big world out there. WTF is Cameron playing at?

    • ArchiePonsonby

      I suggest one word, Jez. Bilderberg!

  • Bruce, UK

    Article 50

    • james102

      The Koran is said to be the word of God so can’t be amended. Treaties and laws are the work of man so can.

  • Gina Dean

    With all this will he wont he it makes me wonder if a deal has been made under the table with the EU that we will not rock the boat while they have trouble in the EZ zone. How would they make do if we did withdraw with the lose of the 12 billion we provide.

    • james102

      It is not just the contribution or the trade surplus they run with us, both supstantial, but the alternative social and economic model that would evolve off their coast.

      History gives a number of examples where continental powers came to regret having Britain in that position, Philip’s Spain, Napoleon’s France, the Kaiser’s Germany, Hitler…

      • ArchiePonsonby

        Took the words out of my mouth, james! A little historical persepective does wonders, I find.

  • james102

    But Cameron’s strategy presupposes that circumstances remain the same and public opinion accepts the parameters within which the political class want to restrict the options.

    They do seem to be stuck in a 20th century mindset here. Events will continue to work against the EU, as it is a flawed concept, and our political class is no longer trusted in the way it previously was.

    They are out of their depth, but then what is different about that?

  • Douglas Carter

    James, you have to get back to basic definitions here.

    Prior to the General Election, Cameron elected to associate himself with the term ‘Eurosceptic’ (in spite of fairly pertinent warnings by others which went disregarded…).

    Subsequent to the Election, surprise, surprise, we discovered that his personal interpretation of the word ‘Eurosceptic’ was very considerably different from the established meaning of the phenomenon. In fact, you might fairly say it was indistinguishable under all circumstances from the word ‘Europhile’. (…then again, the words ‘told you so’ come to mind there..)

    So, before you go too far in attempting a discourse on Cameron’s intent, I’d first seek a genuine scrutiny of Cameron’s interpretation of the word ‘renegotiation’. I suspect you will discover that it bears little similarity with the accepted use of the term. In fact, it’s quite reasonable to pose the point, is there any genuine evidence that Cameron intends to renegotiate anything? Because there’s certainly no sign of it yet?

  • RKing

    Dave will do what big business leaders tell him to do.

    We the people, insignificant!

    And I bet Red Ed will do exactly the same, they are the only party with Balls at the moment but sadly the wrong balls.

  • Vulture

    ‘As Charles emphasises, for this approach to have any chance of success wopuld have to be prepared to make clear that it would leave if it didn’t get the lion’s share of what it wanted….’

    But Cameron has already made clear that
    he won’t leave, so negotiations are a non-starter before they have even begun.

    IT”s quite clear what Dave is doing – putting up a smokescreen of lies to disguise that he has no European policy beyond saying ‘Jawohl! to whatever Frau Frumpel demands,.

    The British people have had it up to here with the EU con and the only negotiations they are interested in are the withdrawal ones. Kapisch Dave?

    • Mirtha Tidville

      Sadly Dave doesn`t seem to Kapisch anything these days…

    • HooksLaw

      Cobblers. Its quite clear that you are simply wallowing in your own bile. Thick assinine little englander bile.
      Britain wants to remain a member of the single market. You cannot see beyond the end of your nose thanks to a spray of spittle.

      • james102

        The Single Market requires a cost-benefit analyses just as the UK’s membership of the EU does.

        World trade is now subject to treaties across all countries rather than regional groups. The regulatory framework of the European Union’s Single Market may be detrimental to trade with the rest of the world where, afterall ,we run a surplus rather than the deficit we run with the EU.

        • HooksLaw

          Do you really think people in Sunderland will vote to leave the EU?

          Sunderland will soon produce about 500,000 cars. Thats just about equal to the entire car production of Italy last year.

          Canada is negotiating a massive trade deal with the EU. It will have deep ramifications.
          ‘In Canada, there are concerns over the threat it poses to local
          democracy. This includes fears of deregulation and privatization, as
          well the expansion of corporate investor rights’
          ‘ the trade deal will give European corporations new rights at the
          expense of provincial powers. …. “policy and
          regulatory options of provincial, territorial and municipal governments will be curtailed to a much greater extent than has been the case under these earlier free trade agreements.’

          Canada is a huge country, yet you think we can piddle away and be given everything we want by the EU if we are lout of it.

          Arbitrarily leaving the EU will leave us weak. A negotiated exit will in reality be little different from being IN. Yet you propose policies which would lead to a labour govt returning to take us deeper into the EU (and inevitably ruin the UK if we are in or out!).

          You are plain daft

          • james102

            So our political and economic system should be designed in the interests of the people of Sunderland and Japanese car manufacturers? Our trade with the rest of the EU has been in deficit for all but a couple of years since we joined so using your argument we should just stop trading with them altogether in order to improve our economy!

            You are a supporter of a Federal Europe and that is a legitimate position but it is a political ideal which can’t be made in terms of economic advantages to the UK.

            For demographic and political reasons continental Europe is entering into a period of rapid change and decline. The idea the present problems in the Eurozone are temporary are naive at best. The world is changing and influence moving away from Europe never to return. The idea of a united Europe was a creature of the mid-20th century, it has no real chance in the 21st.

            • HooksLaw

              Head in the sand.

              No one in Sundeland and in many similar places is going to vote to leave the single market. You seem to think trade agreements can come as easily as falling leaves in autumn and involve no loss of sovereignty. You ignore the issues related to Canada and its EU trade deal and as another example you ignore the long drawn out proposals between Australia and Japan.

              No I am not a supporter of a Federal Europe. The EU is a needless organisation – we do not need the bloated Presidency and Commission and Parliament. The EU needs to dissolve. But it wont and it will still be there if we leave or change our relationship.

              Most journeys start from where you are, not where you would like them to be. The Eurozone countries will shortly embark on a new treaty to tie them closer together, when that happens we will stay out (at least under a tory govt) and we will start a new relationship. It may be we are OUT but in the EEA, or we stay defacto IN but at a similar distance. In either case the real difference between the two is not worth the risk of shooing in a Labour govt.

              • ArchiePonsonby

                For someone who professes to not be a supporter of a Federal Europe, I find it curious that you pop up here with monotonous regularity to defend it, frequently in very abusive terms, viz your response to Boudicca_Icenii above. Methinks thou doth protest too much!

          • ArchiePonsonby

            So why don’t we trade with Canada on our own? Oh yes, the EU won’t allow it!

      • Daniel Maris

        Yes, and – if true – the UK can be a member of the single market without being part of the EU. It can be like Norway part of the EEA or like Switzerland have a separate agreement with the EU. Your pretence otherwise raises questions about your motivations. Sure you aren’t someone who feels the “love that dare not speak its name” – a strong desire to see Europe become one state?

        • james102

          Or like Japan or China or…just about every country not part of continental Europe.

          • HooksLaw

            You would think Japan would have a free trade agreement with Australia wouldn’t you?

            Last time I looked it did not. After years of trying.

            You think trade agreements can be whistled up at a clickm of the fingers?

            • james102

              Trade agreements are about mutual benefit. If it is not in Australia or Japan’s interest no agreement will be made.

              We have one with the EU that is obviously in their interests as they run a massive surplus with us.We, on the otherhand, run a massive deficit with them so it obviously is not in our interests but as a member of the EU we can’t pick and choose like Australia or Japan.

              The argument can’t be won by the European federalists on economic grounds as the electorate are much more cynical than in the 1970s and the media, other than the BBC, will tear their arguments to shreds.

              You need to make your argument on political and cultural grounds.

              • HooksLaw

                You say we can replace the EU with various other trade agreements then idly dismiss them once the difficulties rear their heads.

        • HooksLaw

          You are a pathetic creep.

          We are not in the Euro and I don’t want us to be. Those EU states that want to be and who will thus inevitably be brought into a defacto and undemocratic one nation are welcome to it.

          The fact that you are reduced to smears shoes you have no argument.

          Being in the EEA like Norway is in effect precious little different from being in the EU, we stlil abide by single market rules. Free movement of labour applies to the EEA, ie Norway.
          In point of fact the free movement of labour is the one issue which would make leaving the EU worthwhile, we could more readily control entrance of numbers and better work to get our own people off benefits.

          You and all the other numpties carry on and work to see a return of a Europhile labour govt. I know where my priorities lie, and they do not involve giving aid and comfort to labour.

          • ThreeCheeseFondue

            You are the pathetic one as you are unable to make any point without launching pathetically vitriolic and indeed rather immature ad hominems at the targets of your comments. “Pathetic creep”? What kind of fuckwit goes around calling people a pathetic creep, numpties, asinine little englanders, infantile (oh, the irony) and the rest of it in an otherwise intelligent discussion forum? Really, grow up, man.

      • ThreeCheeseFondue

        If you’re going to use the word asinine at least spell it correctly, there’s a good boy.

      • JackyTreehorn

        Yeah we were the little Englanders that said the single currency was a stupid idea. I see you just don’t get economics. Simply put, the Europeans sell more to us than we sell to them.Why would they stop us having access to the single market? Thick assinine stupid eurofanatic extremist bile

    • Boudicca_Icenii

      Even if Cameron started to make noises now about possibly taking the UK out of the EU, no-one would believe him. He has too frequently and too stridently insisted that he won’t.
      We know that any announcement he suddenly makes about ‘OUT’ being the bottom line in any negotiations, will be countered by assurances to the Kommissars that he doesn’t really mean it.
      Trust takes a long time to build – but once lost cannot be regained. Cameron isn’t trusted and with very good reason: he is a liar.
      UKIP’s policy is very straightforward and doesn’t change with the weather or the polls: Vote UKIP and we leave the EU.

      • telemachus

        Vote UKIP
        Split the Tory vote
        Get Labour
        Get a Federal Europe
        Sounds OK to me

  • @PhilKean1

    The EU would have to believe that Cameron would lead Britain out of the EU if we did not get a satisfactory renegotiation?

    Hey, good luck on that one.

    In fact, which of these 3 scenarios is the more believable?

    (1) – Cameron actually keeping a manifesto promise to hold a referendum on EU membership?
    (2) – Cameron holding a STRAIGHT referendum, where the people were given the choice to leave?
    (3) – The EU worried that Cameron may withdraw the UK from the EU if he wasn’t able to get a satisfa………..

    I’m sorry. I couldn’t finish that last one because I was laughing too much.

    • HooksLaw

      Your bile is based on ignorance. The conservative 2010 election manifesto did not promise a referendum.
      In the debate in parliament the tories voted against Lisbon and said if it was not ratified before the 2010 election they would hold a referendum. It was ratified before 2010 and Brown sneaked off to sign it.
      The tories have introduced a ‘triple lock’ as promised to ensure in future a referendum before any new treaty (and there will be a new treaty, as the article points out).

      Indeed as promised in their manifesto we have opted out of the EU Public Prosecutors Office.

      As ever you miss the point.
      A vote for OUT would not mean the EU would go away, we would still need a relationship with it in order to access the single market. Its clear that any straight walk out would leave our economy vulnerable. We would need and want access to the single market and that would still mean, as in the EEA, we would have to abide by single market rules and make payments to the EU.

      Given that your whole premise starts from ignorance why not read and think about what the article says and means instead of flying off in flights of ignorant fantasy.

      Your anti conservative activities are designed to see the return of a Euro friendly Labour gov.

      • Rhoda Klapp

        You keep trotting out that scare story about trade when it has been exploded on these pages dozens of times. It is nonsense, plenty of countries manage to trade with the EU while not being members. Please find another argument, that one is busted. On the other hand, there is no realistic method of renegotiation open to Cameron, his position is untenable and he really ought to sort it out.

        • HooksLaw

          It has not been exploded on these pages. Its ignored and replaced by pious pie in the sky witterings.

          Its your position that is untenable. You would put us outside Europe before any attempt to negotiate our trade back within it.

          ‘Countries that want to boost their trade with Europe said on Wednesday they were frustrated by European Union trade barriers they claim hamper their ability to tap into the world’s largest market.’

          The reality is that if we wanted to deal with the EU, even if totally and utterly ‘out’ we would have to de facto abide by EU standards and rules and laws.

          If they let us.

          In between times you gaily expect the rest of the world roll over and let us in to their markets without laying ourselves open to their exports and businesses.

          The USA does not negotiate free trade agreements with a view to opening up its own markets, it does so with a view to its businesses operating in overseas markets.

          ‘the right for a U.S. company to bid on certain government procurements in the FTA partner country;
          the right for a U.S. investors to get adequate compensation if its
          investment in the FTA partner country is taken by the government (e.g., expropriated);
          the right for U.S. service suppliers to supply their services in the FTA partner country;
          protection and enforcement of American-owned intellectual property rights in the FTA partner country;
          the right for U.S. exporters to participate in the development of product standards in the FTA partner country.’

          Note the last one? ‘the development of product standards’ in the partner country?

          You are plain daft.

          • Rhoda Klapp

            Every time you rant and name-call, and James102 calmly replies and destroys your points, you make more and more of a fool of yourself. This country has little to fear from an orderly negotiated departure from the EU. And everything to gain, Most importantly the ability to decide things for ourselves with our own interests at heart rather than to give that right to a bunch of foreigners with an agenda of their own. And that’s what leaving is about. Not trade, not the single market, or one-way street as we can see it is. We traded with the world before, we trade with it now, we will trade with it after we leave. There is no problem.

      • 2trueblue

        Cameron did not actually make it clear that he would not hold/be able to hold a referendum if Liebore had already ratified the treaty. That is why he has placed himself in the position where people do not know exactly what he thinks, intends, and is not trusted on the EU. He still has not said what sort of referendum he will give the electorate, if at all.

        Our exports to the EU is in fact not 50% as continually parroted about, 40% or there abouts, and even that figure includes trans shipments via ports, such as Rotterdam, to countries worldwide. Added to which we have a huge balance of trade deficit with the EU, a fact which will insure that if we were ever to withdraw from the EU they would be unlikely to put trade barriers against us.

        • james102

          Unless he is under orders I don’t understand why he keeps putting these trade arguments forward.

          The idea that Germany and France would endanger their trade surplus with the UK is ridiculous. As we run a trade deficit with the rest of the EU there are no advantages for us unless you go into Ricardian economic arguments.

          The regulatory burden on our industries is also detrimental to our ability to trade with the rest of the world where we actually have a surplus.

          • ArchiePonsonby

            Of course he’s under orders, but whose, I wonder?

        • HooksLaw

          not clear? you also engage in wishful thinking.
          This is the statement in the 2009 EU election manifesto (made at a time when the ratification process and the date of the UK election was uncertain.

          ‘We pledge that if the Lisbon Treaty is not in force in the event of the election of a Conservative Government this year or next, we will hold a
          referendum on it, urge its rejection, and – if successful – reverse Britain’s ratification’

          Totally clear. The treaty was of course ratified before the 2010 election.
          The weakness of the loony tune case is exemplified by the fact that they have to lie about this issue.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    What, capchas now. You really know how to treat a girl here.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Funny, I came here after reading Richard North’s crit of the Moore piece over at The North summation has the ring of truth. This bit here is based on. well, fantasy really. A situation which does not exist on the ground, which bears no relation to the actual rules of the EU nor to the interests and aspirations not only of the other members but also of the communitarian class who so sincerely want to transform the whole shebang into one country. That’s one. Not one and a number of peripherals. Those people are still in charge. They wield power which entirely surpasses any vestige of democracy that still hangs about the evil edifice. I urge readers to have a look at the North piece. You will see what depth of understanding and mastery of the subject can do for reporting. Whether you are a europhile or a euro realist, you need to be informed at a far better level than you will get in the MSM, especially when the proprietors impose their views on the editors.

    (I know North is a scornful curmudgeon. So am I. Doesn’t matter if he is right.)

    • Heartless etc.,

      Begging your pardon
      Rhoda, and with gratitude, here is a slight rejigging of your words above:

      A situation in which

      – the H2B does not appear to have his feet on the ground,
      (but his fat head in the EUSSR Cloud)

      – which bears no relation to the actual interests and
      aspirations of the common good of the people

      – the H2B and his apparatchiks wield power which entirely
      surpasses any vestige of democracy that still hangs about the evil edifice of
      the EUSSR and the ‘Co-Alition’

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