Coffee House

David Cameron pulled every which way on Europe

19 November 2012

Another day, another set of newspapers full to bursting with pieces about Britain’s fractious relationship with the European Union – all of which, in their way, will unnerve David Cameron.

The most enjoyable read is Boris Johnson’s column the Telegraph. Boris made his name as the Telegraph’s European Community Correspondent in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, writing amusing stories about the EC’s penchant for mad waste and corruption. He gives a reprise today, drawing attention to the fact that the EU distributes your money to Spanish sheep farmers who do not have any sheep.


Boris’ conclusion is that David Cameron must go into this week’s debates armed with Maggie’s handbag and tell Brussels that enough is enough. The implication is that Prime Minister Boris would not hesitate to put Maggie’s curlers through his mop and give the eurocrats hell.

Elsewhere, Radoslaw Sikorski, the Polish foreign minister and former member of the Bullingdon Club, tells readers of the Guardian that Britain gets a good deal from the EU. He also argues that the price of CAP reform is Britain’s budget rebate. The British government is trying to convince the Poles, a net recipient of EU funds, to support a budget freeze. On the basis of Sikorski’s article, the Poles will not accept cuts to EU cohesion funds (although there may be room for agreement on cutting the small beer of the EU’s central costs). Sikorski even issues a threat, describing the negotiations as ‘an important test of our friendship’.

It’s difficult to read Sikorski’s article and not reach the conclusion that Cameron was foolish to show his hand so early in the game. On the other hand, there is evidence that European governments appreciate the scale of Cameron’s domestic difficulties. Peter Mandelson, who apparently remains au fait with the Brussels scene, reports in the Financial Times that ‘the October vote in the House of Commons for a cut in the EU budget demonstrated to them (continental heads of government) his lack of freedom to manoeuvre. They were also taken aback by Tory bullying and surprised by Labour’s behaviour in supporting them.’ It is, therefore, little surpirse to read reports of a deal being pursued to circumnavigate Britain – a sign that, as Christopher Caldwell writes in this week’s magazine, Britain is being marginalised and that its formal relationship with the continent must change.

Mandelson goes on to say that ‘a test of opinion is inevitable, and pro-Europeans need to abandon their complacency about this… and those who take a realistic view of future need to prepare.’ The subtext of Mandelson piece is that he and Cameron share a ‘realistic view’ on Britain’s future, believing that it should remain within the European Union; Ken Clarke made a similar claim about Cameron’s convictions earlier today. Cameron merely told the CBI (a pro-EU audience on the whole) that he was a ‘good European’, which, I suspect, won’t be sufficient for either camp.

More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us now.

  • Boudicca_Icenii

    If Cameron and Mandelscum agree then it is safe to assume that it is a VERY bad deal for the British people.
    Keep voting UKIP ….. concentrate Cameron’s mind on the potential we have to (a) win the 2014 EU Elections and cause chaos as the next General Election.

  • The_Missing_Think

    The polls are at 56% for ‘out’, and something feeble for ‘in’.

    ‘ResidentLeftie’ from ConHome. (my emphasis).

    “He [David Davis] is against a straightforward In/Out referendum, because as he admits, the Outs would lose the argument, and the British people would vote against it.”

    It looks like denialism is setting in. Quelle wide eyes.

    • HooksLaw

      So Davies is against a straight in/out referendum? Well well.
      Just like I have been saying.
      Even ‘out’ we need to negotiate a relationship with the EU, the whole panoply and consequences of the single market cannot be washed away.

      Hence the need realistically for two referendums.
      The first is virtually pencilled in anyway when the Eurozone negotiates a new closer union treaty. Faced with this reality though the loonies still howl at the moon.

  • Cassandra1963

    The only flaw I can find in this article is this article in its entirety, it is typical of the MSM product that has done so much to cloud the debate and create so much misunderstanding. It makes no sense to you media types because you are determined to look at a three dimensional problem in terms of just two dimensions, no wonder you consistently get it wrong. Why do you think that Cameron could so easily lie about a referendum and get away with taking responsibility for those lies?

    Camerons strategy is to help and assist the EU and its takeover of the UK, he has to play to the domestic crowd AND please his bosses in Brussels AND continue the political common purpose of integration in the EU in the face of majority opposition from the public. The common agenda is to take an unwilling UK into a full EU political union, the aim is to steal our sovereignty with bluff and deception spread over years and supposedly different political regimes.The MSM is either stupid or in on the treachery, the reason why Cameron is able to get away with so much is that the MSM has consistently failed to bring him to account.

    The antics of Cameron makes no sense at all if you begin with the idea that he is right wing and that he works for the national interest, dont forget that parliament voted through a treaty that legally bound UK governments to place the interests of the EU before those of their region, in effect parliament voted for its own extinction as a sovereign free independent national representative. We no longer control our own foreign policy, our foreign minister now reports to Catherine Ashton of the EU, we no longer control our own territorial waters or the fish in them, we dont even control our own borders or have a real sovereign supreme court any more, even supreme justice has been handed over.

    Cameron is unable to tell the truth because the truth is so utterly unpalatable, the regime has to surround itself in a fog of gross deceptions in order to progress their common purpose, the time of telling the electorate the truth has long passed, in fact telling the truth now has become impossible for the political class.

  • swatantra

    So far Merkel has been pretty patient with Britains to-ing and fro-ing,rather like an understanding matron, but the time will come when Angela tells Britain enough is enough and to sling its hook.

    • Rhoda Klapp


    • Andy

      But maybe the German people will tell the old bat to sling her hook first ! Especially when they discover, as they gradually are, that they will have to pay billions to bailout Greece when the Greek Bonds held by the ECB are finally given a haircut like all the private creditors had to suffer earlier this year.

    • dorothy wilson

      Haven’t we been pretty patient with the bullying of the EU elite? And if she says “enough is enough” will she tell the German people they have to fill the giant sized hole in the EU budget?

  • Silverghost

    What I struggle to understand is why the net recipients get a vote in the EU budget. They are bound to vote for an increase. Ideally only the contributors get to choose, the rest can shut up and be content with what they’re given. Alternatively Dave points to the audit failures and evidence of corruption and turns off the financial tap until procedures are tightened up. Fat chance, you just know he’s going to cave. I’d love it if he flew to the talks with Ryanair and took O’Leary in with him (when he finally got there).

    • Matthew Whitehouse

      Dave won’t Cave. But even after he weilds his veto, the budget goes up by 2% anyway meaning we miss out, but as usual there’s a catch, and this is why DaveC cant and wont cave:- If there is EVER agreement on a multi year budget then from that moment the budget automatically goes to a permanent multi year budget. DaveC only has a veto on the yearly budgets. So effectively he needs to constantly veto all multi annual budgets to stop them from becoming permanent. People think we’re gonna get a vote on the EU, i will bet you that by the time we get a vote ALL the parties will be singing the same tune and that tune will be:- We need to be round the table to have our voice heard uff (dave ja vu)!

      • dorothy wilson

        I’m not quite sure it will go up by 2% anyway. There was an interesting article on the Open Europe site about this recently that seemed to suggest otherwise. I have to confess I only glanced at it – must track it down again when I have a few minutes.

      • Silverghost

        Matthew, there is no chance of that happening. Cameron simply hasn’t the nerve. He might do it once, then he’ll get ganged up on to agree the budget on the basis of a promise of some review or reform in the future. And he will cave in.

  • itdoesntaddup

    The calculus for Poland is a little more complex than Mr Sikorski publicly allows. His country doesn’t merely benefit because the UK is a net contributor to EU funds, and Poland a net beneficiary. It benefits from all those remittances from Polish workers in the UK. It benefits from not having to pay benefits that are instead paid by UK taxpayers. It benefits from not having to provide education for the children of those citizens. I’d wager these benefits far outweigh our marginal contribution to Poland via the EU budget.

  • Archimedes

    Sikorski’s piece rankles a little. I think it might be the underlying message of “unless you give us more money, then we won’t be your friends anymore”. Where is this notion of entitlement coming from?

  • dorothy wilson

    Two points:

    1. Poland’s Sikorsi says the price of CAP reform is our rebate. But wasn’t that the case when Blair gave up part of our rebate in the last budget discussions? And did the CAP reform happen? Of course it didn’t.

    2. If a deal is being discussed that circumnavigates the UK, presumably we will not be expected to contribute our share of whatever budget is agreed.

    • sir_graphus

      Indeed, Dots, if the price of CAP reform is the UK rebate, then we already paid once. Ain’t paying again.

  • Vulture

    Mandelson, Cameron and Clarke share a ‘realistic’ view of Europe, do they? If by that you mean that all three are members of the same exclusive club who, largely for reasons of personal venality and vanity ( perks, pensions and junkets) are all happy to ignore trhe desire of a growing number of us ( 56% according to the latest poll) to be rid of the EU lock stock and crooked barrel then you are right.

    The Westminster class stands on one side of the divide, the rest of us on the other. What Dave coyly refers to as Dave’s ‘domestic difficultuies’ simply means that most Briutons want out of this odious organisation and only the small numewr who profit personally from it – such as the slimy Mandelson – want to stay in.

    Mandelson’s side, or Britain’s side: whose side are you on? It’s a no brainer.

  • James Randall

    So Radoslaw Sikorski says “the price of CAP reform is Britain’s budget rebate”. Funny, wasn’t CAP reform supposed to have been what happened after the rebate was cut in 2005 (along with a review of EU spending which I’m not sure ever happened).

    • Andy

      You are quite right, and they all welched in the deal. In that case they should restore the UK rebate to its previous level.

      That is the problem with the Continental Europeans: they never honour their word.

  • Chris lancashire

    Much as I dislike agreeing with Mandelson, he and Clarke (plus Cameron and today, Cridland) are right that the UK’s future lies within the EU. Withdrawal from the largest trading bloc in the world should be unthinkable. And the argument that “they” will continue to trade with us because there already exists a trade imbalance is dead wrong. Once spurned, “they” will ensure that the imbalance grows more.
    The corruption, waste, bureaucracy and lack of democratic accountability are all serious weaknesses of the EU and we should continue working on these from within.

    • Rhoda Klapp

      Well, let us all hope you have a fair chance to put your viewpoint up against those to whom sovereignty and democracy are more important, in a fair vote to stay in or leave under the provisions of article 50 which would involve a long negotiation on what future trade terms would be. If the other members really turn out to be as vindictive as you imply, what the bloody hell are we doing in a club with them?

      • Swiss Bob

        How will any vote be fair with the BBC pumping out their paid for by the EU propaganda?

        • Rhoda Klapp

          Bob, when the day comes, not only will it not be fair, but it will be presented in such a way that no matter which side wins the govt will do what it likes. That is, an in-in referendum based around the result of fake renegotiation.

          That thing about the BBC. I used to believe that the BBC was biased through its own staff selection and lefty world view. I now realise that the BBC does just what it is told or bribed to do as propaganda arm of the government (the real one, not parliament or the coalition). Any pretence of independence is a smokescreen.

          • Matthew Whitehouse

            Correct! The best example of this was on 9/11. A BBC reporter was TOLD to report that WTC building 7 had collapsed. The BBC anchor back in Blighty hadnt been told that they were just putting out the story cuz they were told to. The screen went blank after this:- “It has been confirmed that WTC7 has fallen.” [back in blighty>>> No, I can see it standing tall behind you — Screen goes black, no sound. THAT’S THE REAL BBC. I could go on… have you heard about the worlds most respected scientists meeting in secret to determine the editorial line the BBC will take RE: Climate Change… Well they were not scientists, they turned out to be, the very people the BBC needed to get in one room altogether to say – “Right, Climate Change, theres no longer a debate, weve decided to deride anyone with opposing views to that and will not give airtime to a debate which has now been concluded. — Ah, I honestly used to love the BBC!

        • Matthew Whitehouse

          Very good point. Since the days are now gone where actual debate happens at the BBC (EU, Climate change, anti-tory…etc) I think they should be banned from joining in the argument.

      • Chris lancashire

        The sooner we have a straightforward “in/out” referendum on EU membership the better.

        • Rhoda Klapp

          On that we are agreed. Although I remember how I was fooled last time. Here’s hoping to see all arguments aired and no scare tactics.

        • HooksLaw

          Which will vote IN and we then will have shot ourselves in the foot. There is no straight in/out issue. We need to know what the relationship is with the EU when and if we are ‘out’. We would find that there is not much difference.

      • Matthew Whitehouse

        Spot On!

    • Vulture

      The corruption, waste, bureaucracy and lack of democracy that you rightly refer to Chris are not just some accidental blip in the EU – they are its very core and foundation.

      And far from ‘unthinkable’ our withdrawal from the whole stinking mess is becoming more and more inevitable. The EU offends against our history, laws, economics and worldwide interests as a global maritime trading nation – not to mention as a pioneer of Parliamentary Government while the rest of Europe was languishing under one dictatorshipor another. Joining it was a horrendous historic error, and the time is coming when that error has to be corrected.

      WE are already being shouldered to the margins by our dear fellow club members – how, therefore, do you suppose that we can ‘influence’ them from the inside?

      • Chris lancashire

        I wouldn’t waste my time attempting to persuade you we already have. Otherwise, please see my response to Rhoda.

    • Hexhamgeezer

      We’ve already handed over some of our rebate in return for a promise to reduce and reform the CAP. They pocketed the money and then ignored us. As they have with fishery reforms. The institutions outright refuse to tackle corruption.

      Working within is doomed to failure,not least because our politicians haven’t the stomach for the fight and our Civil Service will not back them up even if they had the bollocks for it.

      We’ve been sold that line too often. Indeed, we were told that the eastern accessions would bring in more like minded countries – all utter bollox of course, anything to further the project.

    • Matthew Whitehouse

      What an old and pathetic viewpoint. You have just said:- “Corruption, Waste and less democracy, all have to be tackled within”. You are a fool. What you are saying is this:- We need to be in a club that is corrupt, wasteful and less democratic than what we have. And try and get it back to where we were before we joined (ie. a democratic country). If that is your Pro-EU argument, you are in for a hell of a debate with informed people who have Actual reasons for leaving.

      • Chris lancashire

        Any chance of a rational discussion without the abuse?

  • Madame Merle

    I wonder if Poland is one of the 17 net recipients of EU funding.
    If so, that perhaps would account for Sikorski’s remark encouraging Britain to stay in.

    As we are one of the net contributors, he would say that,wouldn’t he?

    Boris also mentions the little matter of €515 million to Romania. I understand from elsewhere in the DT that a hefty proportion of that was spent fighting, er, corruption, sadly, to no avail.

    Still, we won’t have to worry much longer. Very soon Romania will be a full EU member. Then they will be allowed to come over here to collect their “funding” in good old sterling.

    • dalai guevara

      Time to open a business run by Eastern Europeans then? I am told they have great computer skills – this will be lucrative, whilst the right wing middle class pay for the right wing poor on the dole.

      What would you care, as from now on you would be graded as a rent seeking socialist?

    • Matthew Whitehouse

      The one country that gets more in EU funding (even more than all the new little countries) is Poland. It is by FAR the BIGGEST net receiver of EU funds!!!

      • dalai guevara


      • Madame Merle

        Yes, I remember when Poland joined. They claimed they should be compensated for all the years they were held back by being part of the USSR.

        They also claimed the right to go on polluting the atmosphere for the same “catch up ” excuse.

        In 1939 Britain went to war because Germany had invaded Poland.
        Seventy years on and the Poles have invaded Britain.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    We are permanent donors, the EU is permanently corrupt. We have a permanent trade deficit with the EU, we continually lose factories to east EU buoyed by subsidies paid for by us, EU companies have used dodgy domestic tax breaks to acquire UK companies, we are forced to fund and house people who have contributed nothing to the Exchequer, our food costs more, as do holidays, we can’t trade feely with the rest of the world (you know, that isolated group not in the EU, and our banking sector could well go the same way as our fishing industry Our prisons are burdened with EU criminals and we await the influx of Romanian and Bulgarian freeloaders in 2013….and that’s not all..

    Meanwhile in the Westminster Bubble.

  • In2minds

    Cameron foolish, really?

  • RKing

    It seems that we are the mugs of europe.

    We have a trading deficit with europe so who needs who the most?

    We give generous handouts to them when they come here to “work” and I understand thay can carry on drawing them when they return home.

    Our health service is saturated to the point of almost collapse (try booking an appointment with your doctor or even worse getting a referral to see a consultant!!).

    Our housing is in dire straits with too many Abu’s and poles wanting mansions. (Tough sh*t you brits you’ll only ger B&B accommodation) and building houses is not a sustainable method to get us out of a recession. (Try exporting houses and you’ll see what I mean).

    And as for the “Yuman Rights” imposed on us by the EU dictators………….

    ………….I could go on but why bother no one is listening!!


    Oh blimey I’ve probably just broken some EU law or offended a bunch of religious fanatics that live here by mentioning christ!!

    • dalai guevara

      1- we are mugs – only if you believe we are no longer in the top tier, but in the deserving botton tier of recipients. What is it?
      2- trade deficit – yes, try and run your BMW, medical equipment, printing geer, renewables and rail tech on home-made Zimbabwean style gear once you have negotiated import/export quotas for us. Is this a case for returning to the Morris Minor and bajonet light bulbs?
      3- handouts – facts please
      4- healthcare – what about the 3m+ British pensioners who enjoy superior French, German and Spanish healthcare in their retirement homes abroad?
      5- homes – rent seekers rely on cheap imported labour to run their shops and simultaneously rip off the same group in a ‘shed with a bed’ scenario. Last time I looked rent seekers were not socialists.
      6- human rights – you are making a case for abandoning the moral high ground? Why? It is getting ever more amusing…

      Seeking help from Christ is indeed what you require.

      • Matthew Whitehouse

        In France the British PAY for healthcare. They dont get it free.

        • dalai guevara

          Heard of the European Health Insurance Card? I have got one and it’s FREE.

          • Swiss Bob

            Talking out of your arse, you don’t know the difference between an insurance card for your holiday and what is required for permanent residence or retirement.

            • dalai guevara

              Once you have a retirement plan and five homes all over the globe you will find you are not in any one location for more than 60 days. Top up privately, Bob’s your uncle.

            • HooksLaw

              In France the locals pay for healthcare – its called Compulsory Health Insurance.

              ‘if you are still working and your main residence is still the UK, you
              need to apply for the EHIC (European Health Insurance Card).
              The EHIC card will entitle you to the same level of health care that any naturalised person or a national of that country would normally benefit from. This applies throughout Europe’

              ‘If you are going to be living permanently in France ie: France is your main place of residence, you will need to apply for an E106/S1 form instead of the EHIC. This you can get from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), The Pension Service, International Pension Centre, Tyneview Park, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE98 1BA, or telephone 0191 21 87777.
              You must have paid enough National Insurance (NI) contributions in the last two years in the UK to qualify, and the card you get lasts up to two years, though this time limit does vary, depending on the amount of NI contributions made to date. As with the EHIC, this will cover up to 70% of health care costs, the remainder can be paid with a top up policy.’

              ‘If you have retired and are of UK state retirement age and on a UK state pension, or are receiving long term incapacity benefit (or its new title of Employment Support Allowance or ESA), you need to apply for a form E121/S1. This entitles you to essential health care in France, as long as your main residence is now France and not the UK.’

              ‘The carte vitale is your passport to health care in France, and is an ID card and means of automatic notification to the central system for
              reimbursements. It is given along with a paper attestation, which must be presented with the carte vitale at all times. Those who may apply to join the French health system and get an attestation and carte vitale include those who have moved to France permanently and have become French residents, those who have reached the UK state retirement age and are in receipt of a UK state pension (Getting your UK pension paid in France), and those on long term incapacity benefit (now ESA) or severe disablement allowance. People who work in France are also eligible.’


              • dalai guevara

                thanx for that Hook, I don’t do small print.

      • michael

        “4- healthcare – what about the 3m+ British pensioners who enjoy superior
        French, German and Spanish healthcare in their retirement homes

        Ho Hum…try selling that one to the respective x-pat communities.

        • dalai guevara

          Are you trying to tell me that UK healthcare is in any way comparable to German healthcare? You haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about.

          • Fergus Pickering

            Why? Is German healthcare better? And is it free? And is it for everybody? I have heard, from Germans, that it’s a pile of shit if you are poor. Of course you are not poor so what do you care?

            • dalai guevara

              Is the Pope catholic?

              Yes, a British national can easily circumvent the 15% odd statutory healthcare deductions in Germany by running a British private top up insurance for pennies. Been there, done that.

    • Matthew Whitehouse

      You’re Right (FFS)!

    • telemachus

      Sir Roger, president of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI),
      told the group’s annual conference
      that European Union membership was a “launchpad” for international trade
      involving non-eurozone member Britain.

      “If we are to avoid an exit vote in any referendum it is essential that the
      voice of British business is loud and clear in extolling the virtues of future
      engagement – not as a reluctant participant – but as the lynchpin of our wider
      global trade ambitions,” Carr told delegates.

  • Sean

    Cameron should stride in there with his head held high and know he has the country behind him, not to negotiate but to tell it straight. 10% cut in the bill from the UK and forget about the rebate, we’ll just keep that ourselves. Stand up and walk out. Simples eh?

  • barbie

    Ecomomic reality has come for the EU. We are now facing a situation where cuts will be made and services disappear. We need to get exports going, deals made, and firms employing people again for us all to survive. In other words, growth. Investment should be made by some 1 billion to kick start the economy but it must be done not to encourage inflation. When Cameron goes over the Channel on Thursday he will need to have a stomach of steel, and the will to keep to his policies. They won’t agree to cuts as though’s getting the money are the ones who will vote it down, its us who pay the third highest contribution to the EU budget, so those who pay the piper should call the tune. One as to ask how long will German citizens keep subsidizing the poorer nations without cuts taking place in these countries. I don’t think Cameron will get cuts, and a freeze too will be hard to agree to, but in the end, we too must be allowed to make our own decisions and that might mean, a referendum. The EU is on notice, it either makes cuts and reduces its overheads, or some members might just walk away. I prefer the latter.

    • Matthew Whitehouse

      “how long will German citizens keep subsidizing the poorer nations”… Sadly, in my opinion, the Germans have their own reasons for wanting to subsidise the rest of the EZ. The Germans are the ones that get their own way when it comes to the EU law making machine they are one big country of EU lobbyists. The WHOLE EU project is based around Germany’s economy. Joining the Euro was the best thing for Germany since… ever. Their exports would be so much more expensive than they are now if they had kept the Deutch Mark. Germany is the ONLY country to benefit from sharing Interest Rates, Currency value etc…

    • Theodoxia

      Phonetic spelling becomes more curious by the day.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Neither the CBI nor the Polish Foreign Minister have a vote in this country or an interest in our sovereignty. Their influence on Cameron ought to be commensurate with that. That is, not to be disregarded but to be way less important than the electorate here. An electorate which does not appear to be represented to Cameron anything like as much as the first two mentioned and many many more with no vote and only their own self-interest.

    • Dimoto

      Sikorski must have got his notes mixed up.
      Half-Rebate for CAP reform was the deal a few years ago, perhaps he can tell us when they propose to deliver their half of the bargain ?
      These “new joiners” have been sold a pup.
      When is Merkel due to tell the Poles that “sorry, the days of easy EU money are over, you Poles function in the EU is to be quiet and obedient suppliers of labour, markets and Lebensraum for the top country.”

  • Heartless etc.,

    [caption] Me love you long time Big Boy! Me sucky sucky all your money!

    With apologies to Sensitive Souls – and gratitude to FMJ !

    • Magnolia

      Mrs M “My darling boy Davey”
      PM “Mother (Russia)!”
      Mrs M “How plump and well fed we are, but we’re losing our hair”
      PM “The fat (of the land) fills out the wrinkles and makes us look so much
      younger than we really are and as for our hair well we can always get a
      good haircut (in our favour) or borrow a whig for cover!
      RIP Punch.

      • Heartless etc.,

        Indeed Magnolia, – RIP Punch. Would that it were with us now, – together with some pithy Hogarthian cartoonists of former years, long before Bliarist PC bullshit could emasculate them.


Can't find your Web ID? Click here