Coffee House

How George Osborne thinks that Britain can get a new EU deal

8 May 2014

A second Tory term would be dominated by the EU renegotiation. Within 18 months of returning to office, David Cameron would have to get the rest of the European Union to agree to new membership terms for Britain and put the results to the public in a referendum. It is a tall order.

But on a trip to Brussels with George Osborne earlier this week, I was struck by how confident he was that a deal could be done. His argument is that the northern European countries, led by Germany, want Britain in as a liberal, free market influence and so will be prepared to accommodate this country’s needs.


Given that Germany is by far the most powerful player in the EU, this is a significant start. But Osborne believes that there is another bloc that would be particularly loath to lose us from the EU: the Eastern Europe and the Baltic state. In this era of Russian revanchism, these countries would not want to see Britain—with its hawkish security stance and, by European standards, considerable military—quit the EU. Indeed, it is striking how the crisis in Ukraine has already brought Britain and Poland far closer together diplomatically.

The question then is how do you persuade the remaining, southern European states to agree to a new deal for Britain. To that, Osborne’s response is that these countries know what an awful message it would send out to the world about the European Union, if Britain decided it had to leave.

The EU renegotiation will not be easy. A deal could easily end up been torpedoed by another EU member for domestic political reasons. But the prospects for the renegotiation do look more promising now than they did after Cameron’s Bloomberg speech. ​

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  • TruthBeatsLies

    Even if there is a referendum – and despite the fact that most people in Britain do undoubtedly prefer to leave the EU – when it comes to the crunch only a minority will bring themselves to actually vote “OUT.”

    Unless a very, very low turn-out could be contrived…!!!

  • Full Name

    Complete make-believe from Osbourne: Germany… Geeermaaany!

    EU referendum: a Wilsonian fudge?

    • Denis_Cooper

      Precisely; Cameron thinks that 1975 is long enough ago that in 2017 he might be able to pull the same stunt again with the present set of electors, of whom only a minority remember the last time. And it has always been his plan to do that, if he found himself unable to avoid holding a referendum.

      • Full Name

        They need to replace the question this time from:-

        Common Market -> “Ever Closer Union” (1957) as they should have done in 1975 ie (interesting how swapping the 57 -> 75…)

        Referendum = Political > Economic choice.

  • Frank

    Pure Pravda. Anyway, Gideon and Dave won’t be in office.

  • Smithersjones2013

    And in other news pigs have been spotted flying around Big Ben in search of more garbage of this level of decay…..

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …we doughn need no ed-ju-kay-shun
      we doughn need no thought cuntrol

  • Denis_Cooper

    Here’s some more nonsense, well known to but quietly tolerated by the present UK government: members of the EU Parliament pretending that elections to the EU Parliament are also de facto elections for the next President of the EU Commission:

    “UK may have no say on EU top job, frontrunner warns”

    “Jean-Claude Juncker says Tory decision to leave centre-right bloc means British voters cannot vote for him to lead European commission.”

    I believe he may be the bloke in the picture with Osborne.

    • Frank

      I think that he was Luxembourg’s answer to act in their version of The Grace Brothers.

  • The_Missing_Think

    “Ukip’s Newark byelection candidate Roger Helmer was greeted like a celebrity as he launched his campaign to be the party’s first MP…

    … The 70-year-old was cheered by market traders as he visited the Nottinghamshire seat…”

    If – Roger cheerily overturns the 15k, this will force the Tories to re-evaluate their whole 2015 GE strategy.

    To counter this numerical writing on the wall, a hard-nosed, no-nonsense EU negotiator would be an absolutely necessary.


    • Full Name

      >”a hard-nosed, no-nonsense EU negotiator…”

      Didn’t Cameron already appoint an arch Pro-EU negotiator?!!

      • The_Missing_Think

        Yes… but I was alluding to there being a bit of ground preparation going off for G.O. to be extensively involved in the planned EU renegotiation, maybe after a transfer to the Foreign Office… or… even… the top slot.

        It all hinges on the UKIP vote, if – it does an eye-watering double whammy neck crunching pile driver into the canvas, over the next month, the reeling and staggering Tory backbenchers could react a bit elbowy afterwards, hene the ground work now.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          Ahhhhh, you have a devious mind, almost as much as the Westminster crowd. Yes, they could be circumventing the coming poleaxe, and accelerating matters, to lock-out any emboldened post-May 22nd interlopers from their neat little “renegotiation” process.

  • The Commentator

    There won’t be any deal done for Britain. The first to exit the EU cage is likely to be Germany already much of her trade and virtually all her future trade will be with Asian countries. Eventually Germany will see the EU member states as an unnecessary encumbrance. When Germany goes there will be a most unseemly scramble for the exit.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      No, they’ll be the last to go, after it’s already broken up. They can’t be seen as the party destroying the EUSSR, and they know it.

  • Denis_Cooper

    Of course a deal could be done; it just wouldn’t amount to anything significant or for that matter permanent, and earlier this week the FT ran an article about a French lawyer explaining how it could be done with any treaty change, just like that major renegotiation undertaken by Wilson before the 1975 referendum:

    “Legal loopholes for David Cameron on EU treaty, says top lawyer”

    He thinks even the knotty problem of “ever closer union” could be solved by a “political declaration”, that is to say a non-binding declaration by the political leaders, on a par with an election manifesto in terms of legal weight, without any need for a legally binding treaty change.

    I guess that the eurofederalists on the EU’s Court of Justice would think hard for at least a millisecond before they decided that the solemn and legally binding commitment to a process of “ever closer union” enshrined in the preambles to the EU treaties carried a hundred times more weight that a subsequent non-binding declaration by politicians purporting to qualify and dilute that commitment, a declaration they only made for the sake of providing Cameron with a figleaf.

  • Denis_Cooper

    “A second Tory term”

    There hasn’t been a first Tory term, has there?

    I thought it was a coalition government, with the LibDems providing Cameron with the excuse for doing nothing significant about the EU except keep giving in.

  • rtj1211

    I don’t think Kraft’s takeover of Cadbury brought the UK and Poland closer together to be honest.

    I don’t think the British POPULACE is hawkish about Russia, they are far more hawkish about our inappropriate relations with Muslim fundamentalist states in the Gulf, they are far more hawkish about why we let the Americans see us as a colony not an independent country and they are far more hawkish about why the Elite want to reintroduce Empire under other guises.

    The population does not see Russia as a country to emulate, but nor do they see it as a primary threat to our security. Russia has no history of foreign invasion Westwards without provocation. Napoleon provoked them, they responded. The Victorians provoked them in Crimea and they responded. Hitler provoked them with his Lebensraum nach Osten nonsense. Not to mention walking into Stalingrad.

    The British Population understands that the Russians defended their homelands in the same way that we defended ourselves in the Battle of Britain. They sacrificed their flesh and blood to defeat Hitler in a way which the Americans never did, never have and never will. Americans spill other people’s blood in the main, committing war crimes of such barbarism and savagery in Vietnam, Indonesia, Iraq to name but three that is the 21st century’s fate to haul them into the Court of World Opinion just like they did to the Nazis in Nuremberg.

    Russia is our natural ally if we had but the first understanding of how to behave. We don’t, we didn’t in 1990 and we won’t so long as we consider economic imperialism to be acceptable, normal or right.

    Russia needs Europe to buy its gas and we have much we can offer in return. That is the basis for mutual trade for purposes of self-interest. America feels threatened by the growing ties and has to foment war to break them up. I don’t understand why Northern Eurasia can’t just tell the Americans to sort their own nation out and let Eurasia do likewise.

    I guess America has to ask what is so wrong with its nation, its psyche and its manias that it has to foment perpetual warfare to avoid facing up to the massively unacceptable nature of its own internal settlements???

  • Blindsideflanker

    If George Osborne is confident that we can get a ‘renegotiation’ before they have even started, or even laid out what powers they want back, then it is a renegotiation that isn’t worth having.

    The confidence of George Osborne is really arrogance and contempt of the electorate where he believes he can con the electorate to accept a rubbish renegotiation.

  • you_kid

    The plan is to stick to the economic plan.
    Double the debt again, lad.

    • realfish

      Turning round Brown’s crippled oil tanker in the face of the storms of the 2010/11 €uro crises, and the compounded liabilities of Browns broken welfare state and his borrowing, has taken some doing, but we are now being steered away from the rocks, thank God.

    • Terry Field

      How much smaller did the productive part of the economy become under Labour, you economic illiterate

      • you_kid

        The levels of moronic cretinism on this blog are dumbfounding.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          …which is best exemplified by you socialist nutters, who would be spending even more than current, laddie.

          How’s the goat?

  • Rhoda Klapp8

    The pie in the sky is likely to be eaten by flying pigs. I do not see how a serious publication wishing to be regarded as a player could put up anything as ill-considered as this. It is fantasy. As the man says, read RAE North for the real story. Do not bother with JF regurgitating whatever has been whispered in his ear by people who are merely trying to manipulate some bloody daft narrative or other.

    • ButcombeMan

      The quality of comment from the dear old Speccie, is going down the pan. It is sad to see the declining intellectual capacity of the writers.

      There is no chance whatsoever of getting the Conservative Party to accept and lead on what the public think, if Speccie writers still do not get it.

      The British do not want to be in a political union with Europe, it is against our nature and culture. We were deceived.

      Many people have seen enough.

      An Article 50 declaration is the only way. There is a place in history for the Conservative Leader who says that and uses that route.

      There is no sign it will be Cameron.

      In which case the Tory party will slide into inevitable decline. It is finished. It is over. There will be nothing left for Osborne to lead.

  • @PhilKean1

    Has ANYONE yet heard this statement from David Cameron …….. “Brussels is wanting to force Britain to fully implement the Financial Transaction tax when it is comes into effect across the whole of the EU in 2016″.
    As Britain is NOT part of economic union, and neither do we want to be, it is very clear that imposing the FTT is a step too far and a line that simply must not be crossed.

    Therefore, it doesn’t matter how successful I believe any future reform we negotiate is for Britain’s national interest, unless the EU cease trying to force Britain to adopt the FTT, which – as we all know – is a precedent and a Trojan Horse which is effectively a giant step towards ensnaring Britain inside economic and monetary union, we are left with no choice other than to leave the EU” ?

    This is not an overstatement of the seriousness of what the EU is trying to do.


    Intelligent patriots understand that the EU’s FTT is crossing the line. Yet have you heard just one, not even a threat, but a warning that Britain would have to leave if the EU persist with this attempt to steal even more UK Sovereignty?

    The reason you haven’t, and are unlikely to hear such words from David Cameron, is simple : he is prepared to stay in the EU under all circumstances.

    Remember that when the MAIN REASON you put your mark against a Cameron candidate is your belief, your hope, that voting Cameron gives you a chance to vote to leave the EU.

  • @PhilKean1

    “His argument is that the northern European countries, led by Germany, want Britain in as a liberal, free market influence and so will be prepared to accommodate this country’s needs”.

    And here’s the problem. Britain’s “needs” – and the minimum Cameron can get away with – are two very different things.

    There is currently quite a lot of concern amongst Cameron’s backbenchers at his very tame set of demands. And I can see why they are concerned. Because they are coming to understand that, again, they have been taken for the fools that they are.

    The facts are now clear. Cameron has discovered that there is no genuine renegotiation that can be negotiated – not unless he gives notice that Britain intends to leave the EU – something that is anathema to him.

    So his fall-back strategy is to talk about reform, and not renegotiation. Of course, reform means we would continue to rely on trusting that the EU wouldn’t use back-door means to manoeuvre Britain into full participation in economic and political union.

    But as this article shows – – the EU simply can NOT be trusted.


  • Adam Carter

    This is one of the most unrealistic articles I’ve ever read.
    First of all, Cameron needs to win the General Election with at least enough strength to force any coalition partner into supporting legislation for a referendum.
    Then, if that happens, he has to renegotiate. Here we come face to face with his disingenuous stance. I believe, although I certainly can’t prove it because it hasn’t happened yet, that Cameron will present ANY outcome as a success. I believe that Cameron wants to stay in the EU at any price, but lacks the courage to say so. (Others might say he is just polically savvy.)
    Then, the point about Britain’s military is simultaneously nonsensical and worrying.
    We should not consider even for a moment committtng Britain’s forces to defend the EU.
    The EU is not Europe, and Europe is not the EU. We might, conceivably, have a national interest in defending parts of Europe, but defending the EU and EU institutions?

  • Count Dooku

    I agree that we have a strong position, but only if we are ready to actually pull the trigger and leave if we don’t get what we want.

    I’m not sure Cameron & Osborne are prepared to use the nuclear option.

    • Redrose82

      They might not be, but they are committed to an in/out referendum and if the vote is out they will have to accept it. All this of course is dependent upon the Conservatives winning the election. If they don’t it’s stay full on in Europe and like it.

      • Count Dooku

        If Cameron is PM after 2015 his opinion will definitely sway the electorate in an in/out referendum.
        If the givt position is advising to leave, we will leave. If they advise to stay, people will vote to stay.

        • Redrose82

          I am not too sure about that. Unless he gets an extremely good deal there are a lot of influential Conservatives who will campaign along with UKIP to vote OUT. I for one (not saying influential) will vote Conservative at the general election but whatever the deal on the table will vote out at the referendum.

          • Alexsandr

            they will go through the motions of renegotiation, then come back waving a piece of paper, claiming victory when its a total defeat.
            Wilson did that in 1975. We are ready for them this time.

            • Conway

              It was noticeable that the only year in which we have got more out of the Common Market (now the EU) than we put in was in 1975.

      • Rhoda Klapp8

        I do not trust any government of whatever complexion to do something as radical as withdrawal from the EU against its will and the will of the civil service folks who’d have to do the work. I just cannot believe the promise to quit if the vote goes against them. It is naive to think it could happen.

      • Conway

        I’m not convinced that Cameron is committed to an in/out referendum. His “promise” is hedged about with such ifs and buts as to be easily wriggled out of and even if by some miracle we did get one and vote out, Cameron said he would not like to take us out (no me gustaria, he told El Pais).

  • In2minds

    Dream on! Then go and read Richard North at

    • Bluesman_1


      Well said citizen.

      Article 50

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