Coffee House

More helpful advice for David Cameron on Europe

17 January 2013

By this stage in the run-up to his Europe speech, the Prime Minister must be tempted to sit in a darkened room with his fingers in his ears shouting loudly if anyone else tries to give him more advice on Britain’s relationship with the EU. Today brings another wave of advice: some from friendly faces, most from foes.

When Ed Miliband got to the point in his Today programme interview, after debating when it was that the Prime Minister might call a referendum, he outlined his central problem with the whole debate:

‘Imagine an investor, thinking now, should I be investing in Britain, or Germany, or Denmark, or a whole range of other countries? I think if we put up a sign around Britain, saying ‘we might be out of Europe within five years’. I don’t think that’s going to be good for our country. And I think that’s a pretty clear answer.’

Miliband argued that the Prime Minister is ‘taking us to the economic cliff’. Later today, his shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander will tell an audience at Chatham House that Cameron is ‘sleepwalking towards exit’. The two men clearly have terrifying nightmares about the consequences of this big speech. Sleepwalking off a cliff does indeed sound rather dangerous.


Alexander will also say that ‘the gap between the minimum the Tories will demand and the maximum our European partners can accept remains unbridgeable’. This is not a bad point: Cameron knows that tomorrow he will need to prepare his party for what he can realistically hope to achieve in a renegotiation, rather than what MPs would like him to achieve.

Never one to avoid intervening in an awkward debate, Vince Cable is giving his own speech today on Europe. Very helpfully, the Business Secretary will make the same warning as his boss Nick Clegg did that opening up the Europe debate could damage growth. He will say:

‘Any reopening of the whole question of British membership creates additional uncertainty at a time when there is already fragile economic confidence in the wake of the financial crisis.’

Before Cameron takes his fingers out of his ears, he’s also got Liam Fox on his case – which is arguably more ominous than Vince Cable getting in a grump about Tory euroscepticism. Fox has written a piece for ConHome listing what he ‘would like to hear’ in the speech. This includes a rejection of ‘ever closer union’ and negotiating a new agreement. Fox writes:

‘I believe that the vast majority of Conservatives, reflecting a growing consensus among the British people themselves, would opt for a clear and unambiguous partnership based upon trade and political cooperation at a time when the global economy is becoming increasingly competitive and where the cost of EU institutions and regulations are slowly becoming the noose around the neck of economic recovery.’

Fox has been writing articles and giving speeches along these lines since early autumn: he’s clearly organising himself as a rallying figure for disappointed eurosceptic backbenchers. That he’s outlining what the ‘vast majority of Conservatives’ would be happy with underlines this. It will be this intervention above all the others that will worry the Prime Minister the most.

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  • barbie

    I’m fed up with politiians talking down to us the electorate. Thinking it is only they who should decide our destiny. We all know we elected them to run this country, but not to dictate. I remember some words from Lord Hogg, ‘the law of the land is decided by the will of it’s people’ and the will of our people is really low. Its now time for a new referendum on the European issue whether the elite politicans like it or not. It as not given us what we signed up for, in fact I signed NO, all those years ago. I would do so again. The reason I’d so again is because we have been decieved, or you could say rail roaded into legislation we didn’t have a chance to debate or vote on. All political parties have been complicit in this disaster. None have really thought about asking the populace what they want, and when they’ve complained they’ve been ignored. Labour, during their 13 years refused to listen to the public on immigration. M Thatcher during her years, refused to listen or give the British public a chance to vote on the Maastrict treaty. They all have faults. The Lib Dems have a blind decisive idea about Europe and insist we should be in it, and avoid the notion of public debate and decision on the subject. So now we see we have an alternative choice and the main three are astounded we should even considar voting for them, UKIP of course. Well they’ve got my vote. If Cameron had been half as honest he would have got mine, but he’s broken so many hinted promises he cannot really be considared trusted.

  • Andy

    I’m sorry but just who the f*** do these politicians, like the gutless Miliband and idiotic Cable, think they are ?? British membership of the EU has become such a problem precisely because of attitudes like those of the gutless wonder and the LibDem idiot. The pair of ’em would make pathetic dictators. Time they were reminded that in a democracy, like the United Kingdom, it is the people who are the bosses. And WE, yes WE THE PEOPLE, want a say. It is time they got use to the idea.

  • David Lindsay

    Liam Fox has some nerve, posing as a defender of British sovereignty.

  • Tom Tom

    It is clear Miliband has never made investment decisions for an MNC. Usually you go Subsidy-Shopping and France is great, German not bad, and Britain can be excellent. Then you look at Infrastructure and Britain is farcical. Then you look at Skilled Workforce and Britain is farcical. You don’t need to worry about Profit-related Taxes as you can avoid those but Fixed Cost Taxes are a problem – Business Rates, Gewerbesteuer etc.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Any article which quotes a politician’s pro-EU views without reminding readers of their support for the adoption of the euro is essentially part of the pro-EU campaign. Ditto for any politician or party which over the years has denied that we were heading for a centralised superstate and mocked those who suggested that Brussels was seeking economic control or oversight of national budgets.

    This ‘clean slate’ and false equivalence approach concerning the 2 sides and the referendum is deeply unbalanced and particularly unworthy of a once rigorously forensic and fair magazine.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Does that economic genius Milliband think that an ‘investor’ has a choice. Invest within the EU or outside it, and that choosing outside is wrong?

  • Colonel Mustard

    What’s the difference between an economic cliff and a fiscal cliff? Does it hurt more falling over one than the other?

    How long are Labour going to do politics by “soundbites we hope will catch on to discredit the Tories especially if we can pinch them from Obama” rather than by dealing honestly with political realities in the UK?

  • ben corde

    I can’t understand how Cameron can be so deaf to the appeals from all quarters for an IN/OUT referendum now. The front page of today’s Express says it all. We have the democratic right to choose our own destiny which he seems determined to deny us, and instead continues to drive his traditional support into the UKIP fold, where we too have migrated and paid our membership fees. This man could transform his parties prospects for 2015 overnight by this simple act of faith, but his arrogance or stupidity or both knows no bounds. He knows damn well he can’t deliver on re-negotiation because the EU have already told him so, and judging by the sneers and smirks from Barroso and co when Nigel finished his speech this only reinforces my take on this. His prevarication causes nothing but uncertainty and makes it certain he won’t be around after 2015 to deliver any of his so called promises. In short the man is a complete disaster for the Conservative party which will soon be disappearing into the history books

    • Colonel Mustard

      Mainly because he lives within a distorted, privileged bubble and has no empathy whatsoever for the lives, hopes and fears of ordinary English people. And I use the term English deliberately. There is nothing remotely genuine, heartfelt or courageous about him. He is a spin doctor and our once great parliament is stuffed full of spin doctors who are more concerned with the means to win power and privilege than serving the English people or representing their wishes.

      • Wessex Man

        never more have I agreed with you Colonel Mustard, what I don’t understand is that Cameron won’t talk to the SNP Government of Scotland until after their referendum about the terms of the split “because it would be pointless to do so as the Scots may vote to stay within the Union.” The United Kingdom Union that is.

        He turns it all around completely with regard to any referendum on Europe. I don’t think He has any intention of holding any sort of referendum on Europe at all and is so arrogant on matters relating to Scotland that he will fall flat on his bouncy face.

  • RKing

    What is it about our ploiticians?

    They are elected to run the country but want to hand the powers over to an unelected body (need I say it… the EU)?

    Listen guys and in particular Cameron, Milliband, Clegg, Cable, Clark and co,

    YOU are elected by US to run the country.

    If you don’t want to do it then GO.

    Democracy means the will of the people.
    Dictatorship means do as we say.

    Ask the people…. Do as the majority say or b********r off.

    • RKing

      Oooops.. politicians!!

  • Slim Jim

    This is what they fear the most: a country leaving the EU and being successful politically and economically. That would set the precedent and open the floodgates. That’s why they won’t let Greece or any other country exit the euro. You can tell the EUSSRophiles are getting twitchy as they shout down any attempt to give us a referendum. Do you think Cameron will heed advice?

    • Colonel Mustard

      Where did all the Moscow gold go? Who benefited from it and how?

      • Tom Tom

        You mean the stuff shipped from Spain to USSR by the Republicans in the 1930s ?

  • In2minds

    Imagine an investor, thinking now, should I be investing in Britain, they
    have a PM who is descended from a Marxist academic? I think there’s a
    pretty clear answer to that.

    • Bruce_UK

      And his bezzy mates are run by a “former” Maoist.

    • David Lindsay

      David Cameron has definitively ruled a straight In-Out referendum times without number. Tomorrow, he will propose nothing very much. He never has. He never does. On anything. By contrast, this morning Ed Miliband did not rule out such a referendum, again for the umpteenth time. And he opened the debate around repatriation with a call for that of industrial and regional policy, so that, you know, a British Government could have an industrial and a regional policy.

      That is the sort of thing remembered by some of us from the publications of the Labour Euro Safeguards Committee 15 or 20 years ago. Miliband’s channelling of Bryan Gould from the other side of the world, and of Peter Shore from the other side of the grave, makes it feel as if the former had become Leader of the Labour Party in 1992, or the latter had done so in 1980, or both.

      It is as if Hugh Gaitskell had lived and become Prime Minister. It is as if Harold Wilson had won the 1970 Election and kept us out. It is as if Michael Foot had won the 1983 Election and pulled us out, rather than having been defeated by Margaret Thatcher, who during that Parliament signed the Single European Act, a piece of political union so great that it can never be equalled. It is as if the Neil Kinnock of 1987, or at a push the Neil Kinnock of 1992, had entered Downing Street.

      It is as if that Gramscian coup in favour of Tony “Marxism Today” Blair had never been staged in the minutes after the death of John Smith, so that the Leadership of a party by then guaranteed to win the subsequent General Election had instead passed to a Labour candidate, whether Margaret Beckett or John Prescott, Robin Cook or Gordon Brown. You can always tell that the Left has exchanged politics for lifestyle glossiness when it becomes infatuated with the EU, to which in it has always provided the consistent opposition in every European country, including this one.

      With the outcome of the next General Election once again guaranteed only months after the last one, and for very similar reasons, the serious, Labour candidate certainly beat the glossy lifestyle, Eurocommunist candidate in 2010. As we see with especial clarity today. The key objective now is to keep him and his party in that sound mind. First, in Opposition. Then, and soon, in Government.

  • John_Page

    How come you can keep writing posts about this without mentioning Article 50?

    • Macky Dee

      Because it’s a bit more complicated than that. We know we can leave everything altogether and wave goodbye BUT remember we need these europeans to buy our stuff and sell us stuff – If we just walk away – there’s no agreement for trade or anything…

      • 2trueblue

        So you think that they are going to stop selling to us? We have a massive deficit with the EU. They have a lot to lose, that is one of the key things.


          No, I think Macky Dee has a point. Why would the businesses in the EU want to sell things to us if we left the EU? Sure, they’d lose loads of money and many of them would go bust, but refusing to sell to us on the basis that we didn’t want to be part of their socialist state would make them all feel very warm inside as they queued up outside the centre de jobs.

          • 2trueblue

            As you point out principles are expensive!

      • fubarroso

        The whole point of Article 50 is to allow a member wishing to leave the club a period of time (up to 2 years unless an extension mutually agreed) in which to negotiate a relationship with the EU, the central pillar of which would be terms for continued access to the Single Market.

        • helicoil

          Exactly, why this point is never raised in MSM interviews with the gov is yet more wool over the eyes of the public.

  • Russell

    “should I be investing in Britain, or Germany, or Denmark?”

    Now let me see… a full member EU country with all the excruciating regulations …..or in an ex EU member like the UK which is free to negotiate trade terms agreeable to both countries and to which the EU still trades as the UK is a huge market for the EU, and can trade with the EU on agreeable terms?.


    If there is a great and unbridgeable gulf between what we want and what we can hope to achieve (i.e nothing) then why is Cameron not saying that renegotiation is a non-starter? More lies.

  • Jebediah

    Blimey all this fuss about giving the British people a vote on whether we want to be part of a federal superstate or not. Give us the vote, make your arguments and trust us to decide.
    More annoying “I don’t know what we’d do, but we wouldn’t do that” from Miliband I see.

    • realfish

      Ed (Hey everybody look at me, I’m not using any notes) Miliband, this morning, took obfuscation to a new level. No one can be any closer to understanding his position on Europe or on a referendum, neither will we until he decides which bandwagon to jump on. Sadly the BBC, on its news platforms don’t seem to want to report on Labours position, or lack of it. They make do with his attack on the Government.
      Yes! Miliband, worryingly seems to have inherited some of the Golumesque characteristics of his predecessor – it seems that he fantasises about being Prime Minister, but like a child who wants to play with the big boys toys, just for the sake of it, wouldn’t have a clue what to do with them if he got hold of them.

    • No, No, ******* No

      The European Union shouldn’t even exist. Now is the time to give us a vote on it and not conspire to fool us by ‘negotiating’ to keep us in something that will keep creeping into something larger. Give us a vote on the thing Now, it’s long over due and the least we deserve.


    Why doesn’t Cameron either listen to the people and try to represent them in some manner, or else publically admit that he doesn’t think much of the electorate and will carry on doing exactly as best suits his ongoing career progression?

    It just doesn’t work when he pretends to have listened to others because we know, we all know, that he could care less.

    He is of one piece with Milliband, Clegg, Cable etc. They all have the same view about the EU which is not that shared by the electorate. Personally I don’t see Fox as the great white hope since he seems to be proposing not much more than that we should keep waiting and see what happens. That is entirely what Cameron wants us all to do.

    • EJ – was Tory now UKIP

      This much-hyped speech is going to prove disastrous for Cameron. I suspect he’s going walk smack bang into the trap of trying to delay and fob off. That’s exactly what everyone expects him to do and he’s going to deliver. And in doing so he will deliver yet another killer blow to the Conservative Party.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Indeed. Because his cloud of silly teenaged advisers and vested-interests pollsters think they can divine the will of the people. People are getting mighty fed up with Westminster and it going to erupt one day.

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