Let us look at the EU question a little closer and think about it and form our own conclusions instead of those politicians are thrusting on us

Doreen Bailey recently posted a discussion ‘Leaving the EU’ and Brian Cave asked about ‘Britain out of Europe’. It is an extraordinarily timely question. The government in the UK is totally divided with the Conservatives having some very committed pro-Europeans confronted with the growing ‘Fresh Start’ anti-EU group. The Libdems, whilst policy wise pro-EU, are rather shaky. The Labour opposition is also factional. All of them are in fact looking over their shoulders at UKIP. However, in recent polls even UKIP has slipped back from the popularity it was enjoying a couple of months ago.

At the same time, David Cameron and George Osborne are sabre rattling and telling the EU that unless there is treaty renegotiation the UK might have to pull out. Opinion polls show that a referendum is supported by the majority of the population, however Cameron has made it clear that it would only happen after a General Election that saw him returned to office and that the questions would also be framed on a basis of renegotiation rather than withdrawal.

Now a number of pro-EU ‘heavyweights’ have joined forces to argue for continuation without renegotiation and, essentially, further integration. Ken Clarke is foremost amongst those since he still holds a parliamentary seat and a government position, albeit Minister without Portfolio by name. He is also President of the Conservative Europe Group and Vice-President of the European Movement UK. Then there is Michael Heseltine, now in the House of Lords. Finally, there is Peter Mandelson, also a peer and European Commissioner for Trade from 2004 to 2008. Mandelson is often highly reviled for many of his ‘extra-parliamentary’ activities and a few where he used parliamentary privilege, but nonetheless an EU champion. Clarke is probably one of the shrewdest politicians of our times, with far more experience than most other serving MPs and whatever our political allegiances might be, amongst the politicians with integrity who is as honest as a politician might ever be. All three have aspired to leadership of their parties, the two Conservatives having actually stood as candidates. Not one of them is a political novice or fool.

Day by day there are new media reports about the Cameron push toward the right, the growing influence of the Fresh Start group as well as opposition and outside comments and advice. We know that Tory Eurosceptics want powers repatriated or a referendum on an exit immediately. Our European partners don't want either and have said so. Angela Merkel provided Cameron’s greatest hope of getting revision of the Lisbon Treaty, but she has now stated no immediate interest in that, at least until after the German general election this autumn. It goes further than EU partners though.

In the UK the financial, commercial and manufacturing sectors are set against drastic changes that will affect trading arrangements in particular or exit which would cause an enormous and almost immediate outflow of capital and production. Their point of view is that the economic foundations of the UK would be undermined. Vast amounts of foreign capital invested in ‘UK plc’ would be withdrawn and reinvested elsewhere. That would immediately affect exchange rates for one thing and GNP would also get the backlash. The focus of European banking is London now, after a withdrawal it would certainly become Frankfurt. Trade would be lost, affected by the changes in exchange rates and a less free market between the UK and mainland Europe. Since worldwide other markets are growing fast, for instance China, India, Brazil, Nigeria and others moving up rapidly, a small island with a manufacturing sector that has radically declined and with an urgent need to re-skill its labour force would be at a terrible disadvantage. Whoever says otherwise is simply using bravado rather than common sense and certainly not listening to finance pundits and economists.

Then our usually dependable ally, the USA, has just stated its position that they wish to see the UK remain at the heart of the EU rather than move to the fringe or out altogether. There are echoes of Henry Kissinger’s statement that he wished he had a single phone number for Europe instead of many. It also reflects Ben Bernanke’s view as Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve and as a former senior academic economist who encouraged the International Monetary Fund to support the Euro. The IMF and European Central Bank have ended the direct threat of a Euro collapse and despite cruel austerity measures in several EU countries and massive unemployment, the Euro economy is recovering. To an extent the USA is very influential in these things happening, but Eurosceptics do not want to listen despite the USA having its own enormous economic problems that mean they would not take an EU free UK under its wing as some imagine. It has been very clearly ruled out, indeed far more by the Republicans than by the governing Democrats. So no refuge there.

Where does that leave us then? It creates a great deal of uncertainty to begin with. There are bills waiting in the Commons and Lords to ‘repatriate’ pensions, winter fuel allowances and voting rights. Pensions is a very difficult one, no doubt that will not happen. But we cannot rule anything out. The other two, well one cannot be so sure. If Euroscepticism gains enough support then it may see both withdrawn. It is very highly likely that people not resident in the UK would be excluded from any kind of EU referendum. They are not the most enormous deprivations in this world but they are part of turning backs on people who have left the UK. The present political situation in the UK is also putting more vigour back into the campaign for Scottish independence that goes to a referendum next year. At present it looks very unlikely a majority will vote for it, but each week Westminster makes life harder for Scots the worm is turning and there is again a small likelihood that the plebiscite will see the breakup of the union set in chain. Welsh Nationalists have been demanding a parliament to replace their assembly for some time, a pro-independence vote in Scotland would reignite enthusiasm there. It is highly likely it will not happen this time but within a generation will probably happen. How does that affect us? Well, as the UK devolves down to simply England with an autonomous Wales and who knows what will happen in relatively autonomous Ulster anyway, the clout the union has had will decline sharply. England alone will be a small part player in a large continent where even Scots neighbours might be EU members.

People living on continental Europe also see such things as pension ages going up in the UK and down in EU states. Retirement age goes up to 66 from 2020 and 67 from 2028, the flat rate pension will be £144 in 2017 as against a basic rate of £107 now. The pension itself does not match most needs in any EU country, indeed not in the UK. The extra years between normal retirement ages in the EU and when pensions will be received will be gap years when UK citizens without work or an alternative income will in many cases be impoverished. A change in treaty terms or withdrawal from the EU would mean any benefits in such areas as health possibly even entirely lost. That would be the case of the UK impoverishing its own. Would the solution be for everybody to go ‘home’? Well, just how? Many have been here too long, many are married to French and other European nationals and children are therefore not at all ‘British’, indeed may very well not want to be and many others may simply not want to. Then there are the issues we all know about such as selling up to go back. The property price downturn is far from over in several European countries and France especially. UK property is by and large far more expensive. So that poses the problem of when or if people can sell up or do they simply abandon their properties and hope that values and the market will turn around whilst they are able to benefit from that? That is too risky and not viable for most people, so not a good option. The UK is a very expensive place and so the rental option would deplete people’s piggy banks very quickly, spiralling them down to the poverty line that is also well enough explained to us by media of all political persuasions.

Is it a political choice? Well, I am trying to be as apolitical as anyone can be under the circumstances, despite my own political and EU views. Objectivity is far more important than any dogmatic line informed by people who often have great enough wealth to bail out if their anti-EU strategy fails and after UK withdrawal the place goes to wrack and ruin. Just out of interest I looked at political affiliation of UK citizens in France early this morning. There are quite a few Conservative Associations throughout France but I could not find Labour or Libdems, although one might assume they have some members. UKIP would not even bother because it would go against the grain of what they are saying, so I did not waste my time. So perhaps there are far more Conservatives in France than any other coherent group but what it is difficult to see is where they stand on the EU. I believe numerically most of my old friends in the UK are Tories, when we email each other, talk on the phone or write an old style letter the issue almost inevitably arises. Most of them are against any kind of change in the EU-UK status quo, but yes a few really do want out. However, I find exactly the same amongst friends of other political persuasions in more or less the same proportions. So I think it is far more difficult than any case presented to us by a UK politician, indeed my view is that we need to be better informed by those where the real interests are to be found in finance, trade and manufacturing. The problem is that they keep things a bit closer to their chests, ready to run if necessary and what we hear from them are but scraps of what could be a more rounded and useful picture than any other.

Brain, your "would be" scenario was probably the reason why Adenauer wanted the UK in (did not know it), - straight at its creation. Sometimes our failures punish us many years later and it is like Gorbachev once famously said as his 'empire' collapsed: "Who does not go with the times, goes with the time." I am just afraid that now many people in the UK are fed till the next election with Placebos, the last thing they deserve. And this is bringing us back to your demand for honesty...

Theo, I agree in general. It just happens it was Cameron making a speech. I think the EU is a bit more grown up than he imagines. What should be remembered with Merkel and Hollande celebrating 50 years of European unity as call-me-Dave sails the UK down the creek to obscurity, is that the great British sulk belongs in this story. When Adenauer and de Gaulle started this club, de Gaulle would not have the UK in. He foresaw trouble with them in. But he also made trouble by keeping them out and Europhobes feed on this both ways. Adenauer would have seen the UK in straight away.

Had that happened one might speculate on the outcome, The UK was still a top dog, Germany slowly recovering and France not so badly off. The three together would have seen the UK very ambitious gathering every advantage. It is highly likely that much of the development of what is now the EU would have been very similar, perhaps even a little quicker without the UK to hold things back. In order to stay at the middle the City of London would have been the financial hub of the EU as well as one of the hubs worldwide. It is not impossible that the Euro with another name perhaps, would have been adopted. Bear in mind the UK did not decimalise for the sheer heck of it, there was a plan. So, UK where Germany is now, finance firmly embedded in London as the treasury of the EU and possibly even far more power in London that Brussels.

OK, that is only a 'would be' version of what was not. However, there would have been no Eurosulk in the UK and what happened to day would be inconceivable because it is not even impossible that the EU would have toppled the USA from its perch and seen European change earlier than 1989, thus by now a union so enormous and powerful that the BRICs would have been no threat.

But alas no. The sulk goes on and nobody admits it. Just blame the big boy next door and say he is a bully, then kick him from behind when he is not looking, as learned at the Bullingdon Club by many generations. Europe will not be kicked by a small island. The EU is still growing, we cannot ignore the waiting list and the same goes for forthcoming new members of the Eurozone. They can simply turn their backs on him and from now on EU meetings are going to be a lonely place. Yes, other countries may have similar feelings but none of them has such a collective self-image of being an invincible world power. The speech is so full of contradictions and cop outs, opt outs, perhapses and so on that it is purely semantic. Looking at European responses thus far nobody appears much interested in what he had to say anyway, so some great threat to EU unity is it? I suspect not.

Everything what is going to be said in the next 5 years will be seen through the prism of this referendum. The sad thing is, if there would be a plebiscite in France, Holland, Finland or Denmark today the outcome would be similar: Out of EU, re-negotiation and cherry-picking.

A "vox populi survey" would only make any sense, if it would be held before June 2014, so b4 the European elections, by leaving people in Scotland a change in autumn 2014 on their other "vox populi survey".

Because of historical reasons there will be never a plebiscite in Germany on this matter. If any country in Europe needs the EU, then its Germany in order not to slip into something strange (being from Hamburg, I can tell you the writings are already on the wall in some counties, especially in the former East) Moreover, as we can see since the Libyan Adventure France is happy to have become the leading force on the planet for engagements in "humanitarian wars", dragging us from one into the other. Is this the real reason to avoid that the real issues are being discussed? Its was the "humanitarian war" in Iraq that was leading us into the financial crisis on the first hand.

This speech confirms my opinion of total helplessness in the global caste. Semantics, no, the speech itself was far from being convincing. He (or his ghostwriters) are not on his/their heights. Given the state of their confusion this is understandable. A Reelection with the help of Lady Gaga on Facebook may help.

Forget about fiscal reform, migration, you name it, all has been discussed in the Parliament of EU's galaxy. For years billions went into it to fill coffers of steam chatterers and now this 5 years time-line by stating at the same time "I would prefer Briton to stay in the EU", or "Ask the British people what they think" , while he knows the majority wants to be out without knowing why. At some point reforms just backfire and its better to deal with facts, not to invent the wheel all over again and again. Luckily he was revealing his conviction openly: "We only want reforms in the EU and then we ask the people" ;-))lol...

From a psychological perspective that is insightful enough, but what about those that are having business relations on a larger scale, such as BMW, VW, Airbus? Will it then be like with the overseas Bubble-partners like e.g. Armour Group, as BAE had stabbed itself in the nose when Goldsmith said the deal with one offspring of the Saud family was regular. This is never going to work with current cooperate relations inside Europe.

more of the usual "hot air", me thinks ;-)

Nah, given the timing I might have the option of Scots as well as Swiss on reserve if the idiot pulls of a pull out referendum. That would required him to be elected back into office with a clear majority, despite recent polls not a very likely thing. Maybe this will buy a few votes, if people even remember it.

so I don't have to dig out those naturalistion forms for a while yet, Brian ;-)

Oh well, followed the speech. It is so full of contradiction and incoherence it is hardly worth the effort. If anybody needs a nap, then read the complete text that was up five minutes after he finished. As for the five or so minutes of Q and A, he managed not to give an answer. We are, in reality, none the wiser really.

Well, it will be made a 0800 in the morning when all the 'skivers' still have several hours left in their beds and all the 'strivers' will be travelling to work, if not already dragging the millstones round. So it is of interest to a huddle of hacks who will rush back to the Daily Stale, Toryclap or whoever they work for a trumpet it as a triumph. I'll be having a good look but I suspect that with too much big money telling him to toe the line, that it might well be a rather meeker and milder speech than we were all lead to believe. If he promises an straightforward 'in-out' referendum he will lose big money and the EU will begin to turn its back on the UK as of today. I think the analysis of the big speech later will be far more interesting than anything he actually says. Let's see later today.

Alastair Campbell's opinion of that?

Alastair Campbell

Cameron making one of most important decisions of his Premiership without having faintest reason why, let alone where he wants it to end

Sky News Newsdesk@SkyNewsBreak

David Cameron will promise in speech tomorrow to hold an 'in-out' referendum on UK's membership of the European Union

I am never quite sure what the point is when Thatcherism and Reaganomics are raised. Yes, they sowed the seeds of what is happening now and their form(s) of neo-liberal economics has proven to have released the genie from the lamp and is becoming a monster. However, this nostalgia for Thatcher and a great deal of praise being doled out for her politics, ironing over the many bumps of course, is perhaps better translated as it being all wrong right at this moment in economic time. The problem is that the damage is done and we cannot turn time back and so trying to snatch hold of what looks like a very reliable safety blanket by praising Thatcher achieves very little, if anything at all.

What is being whitewashed over in British politics is that the UK went from something dynamic to emergent problems, so Thatcher was forced to go. Major simply kept the boat afloat for a while with nothing outstanding happening. Then Blair came along with 'Things are going to get better' blasting out of every possible loudspeaker. Initially they did, which is now being forgotten, and it was in his final term during which he handed over to Brown that it all went sour. Cameron promised a lot and has delivered very little. Indeed, for 'ordinary' people things have got worse and so a whole long parade of scapegoats is being paraded that include the EU, immigration, education, the unemployed and all the other excuses the incumbent government uses to paste over the cracks in the political and economic wallpaper. The Thatcher rehabilitation at present serves little purpose other than as a distraction. Whatever the purpose, it all adds to the means by which politicians are avoiding standing up and telling us exactly 'why' anything.

It is most certainly not the UK where that is happening. Here is France the explanations for revenue increases that are often imposed by stealth so that the public get the bills when it is all done and set in law, placing the onus on them bearing responsibility as citizens and fiscal units to not ask questions but simply pay, are missing. Our German friends have not had it so different, it is from outside that it looks like they are in the land of milk and honey. Not really. Consider, for instance, how much German industry has gone, particularly in the automotive industry. German cars built in the UK and Brazil are still sold as top class German cars, we simply pay for a 'label' in German now, but neither the vehicle itself nor the labour costs of building it.

There seems to be some kind of curse on any serious discussion of the up-and-coming countries, what are now referred to as BRICs+ by serious economic analysts. By the end of this decade the Chinese economy will have passed the USA, Brazil and India will be close behind them, Indonesia is accelerating right now, Nigeria becoming as big as many European economies with a few more countries coming along nicely. The USA is openly worried about that and is saying little but trying to do something about it. Their problem is that the two main parties are just pushing and pulling and holding themselves back, in the end the focus on the USA throughout the 20th century will probably begin to go the way of the British Empire, Hapsburg Empire, Ottoman Empire, etc. The only countervailing force is a united Europe, yet what is essentially soft through to hard nationalist pressure in several countries is undermining how that will work. Match that with the banking collapses that were created as much by allowing too much borrowing for debts that were defaulted here in Europe as much as the collapses in the USA and trading irregularities, then add corruption of the kind that brought down Greece along with all else and not forgetting capital outflows to offshore havens by the richest stakeholders and what should be a force majeur is weakened. If politicians would also talk about that, join forces throughout Europe, not just within the Eurozone, to change that and tell us what is happening, then Europe has a promising future. Unfortunately, politicians are in cahoots with the wealthy stakeholders and banks, with far too many of the politicians coming from that socio-economic group to dare to stick their noses above the parapet and tell the truth, then act on it. Hollande here, meanwhile, is going at it from the other way round and is pulling France away from the economic route of much of Europe, certainly using something that appears to be the opposite to Thatcherite economics, but under the surface is more like it. It is all done under a mantle of socialism that is penalising the richest hardest and then works down to protection of the least well off at the bottom. But it does not work that way. Capital itself is safe, it is the high earnings and interest accrued from that wealth that is taxed highly and will be more in the future with very few high earning exceptions such as Depardieu who skedaddle. At the bottom of socio-economic strata unemployment, unrepayable debt/bankruptcy and repossession of property (homes, cars, etc) are rife. So there is a machine in operation that looks very socially oriented but is actually the most brutal form of state capitalism rather than socialism. It hits everybody without genuinely discriminating. Let us hope that it does not impress other countries and become a model for economic governance. If so, then we can all pack our bags and head off to another continent where we do not simply exist as a source for state capital that nobody has told us about properly, its raison d'être or what it is being used for.

All in all, Europe is becoming a continent where radicalism once arose but now indifference thrives, thus those who should be telling us facts and truths can get away with telling us nothing. Liberal realism is nothing but a pseudonym for dictatorship by silence at present and very few people appear to be concerned about that, as long as they have somebody or something to blame, right now the EU. Truth, somebody please!

As much as Margaret Thatcher is now praised in this FT article, she was one of the leading managers of the scheme of "liberal realism". This "globalisation" economic strategists of Anglo-American shareholders might have called him. However, the neglect of political morality during the era of "moral trumpeter", Tony Blair, and his political-journalistic Entourage are having their roots here: Ruppertrebeccahlaughoutlounds, because Their media "helped" that many folks care more about the latest celebrity gossip than issues which actually affect their lives. I see with this Media-era as a "cultural Chernobyl". So this plebiscite grumblings are not since Cameron's election (which I'll never understand). This "anti" had been covered (£ & Schengen) up. I see Cameron's statement more in the kowtow of many of his former colleagues (Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher but neither John Major or even Gordon Brown) it was their contribution to the glorification of "liberal realism".

Great reference to Cicero, absolutely right. The problem with Cameron is that he has made himself so transparent that I suspect neither friend nor foe believes much he says any longer. Since just about all of Europe is without a genuine, old style commitment leader except Merkel, love her or hate her, she sidelines everybody else. Cameron cannot cope with that because he is not at the centre of things and also wanted to make himself 'important' without much concern for the consequences and, as you say, probably had a queue of those late night calls to tell him to ditch the James Cagney number which did not become him. I think he has now completely washed himself up and all of Europe will wait for 2015 and his departure, which come what may seems inevitable.

I agree Brian, this nonsense about not being able to make the speech due to the hostage situation is paper thin, and nothing but a cover. I think he has had a few late night phone calls from some powerful people, who have told him to change direction, and that is what we will see, a very much watered down version.

I suspect the initial extreme position was nothing but kite flying to see what the response would be, and it was sharper and far harder than he expected.

Cicero knew how to play the mob in Rome, and Cameron needs to find that guile and whit to do the same.

18012013 Steve Bell on Cameron

© Steve Bell 2013
Trust Steve Bell to get this one in. As for the comments... hmmm, lots of people saying much the same as me and if a few Guardian comments, then how many others? Well aimed shot at own foot perhaps?

Yes Nick, I poured over it about 0630 this morning and wondered what other people will make of the UK. The expression Europhobe is being used more and more and with the negative connotations of all that is phobic it does begin to render these politicians into the situation of being something like have the equivalent of arachnophobia which, whilst many people suffer, is always dismissed as silly and childish. It is a clear insight and thoughtful piece, but how many people will read it and how many absorb its point? That is where I think people are without clear insights and not only having politicians deliver them to us but telling us why they are as they are and what really is behind that.

I also find it intriguing that Cameron has cancelled his key policy speech on the UK-EU relationship today in the Hague because of Algeria. It should have been a major policy statement that should go before sitting by his telephone for news of hostages. That is in reality in the hands of his civil servants and whilst it is correct that he shows he is very much in touch with that it also looks like an excuse. For the last 10 days or so he has had opposition, EU, USA and other politicians, business leaders and others asking him to back down. His ground was getting shakier by the minute then this fell into his hands. However, the hostage situation has been there for several days and only this part failed, part successful attempt to end it has brought it into the spotlight this way. Call me suspicious, but I suspect critics will soon say much the same.

Great article in the FT today about this whole issue. I have to agree with the journalist, I suspect the rest of the world is looking on in bafflement.


You might have to subscribe to the FT to read it, but it's free and it's a great newspaper anyway.

hit the nail on the head as usual, Brian. My Dad, who owns a place in France yet seems to be more and more anti-EU, is forever telling me what he's just read in the Torygraph about how France and Europe is on it's knees and about to crumble yet he can't accept/won't listen to talk of the UK facing real problems. Something to do with being on an island perhaps...!

It gets worse by the day. This morning I read about Blockbusters' going down and also:

'More than 100 retailers are in a critical condition and will probably follow HMV and Jessops into administration, one of the UK's top business recovery firms has warned.

Julie Palmer, a partner at Begbies Traynor, said 140 retailers were on the firm's "critical watchlist" – defined as businesses that had received either a winding up petition or a county court judgment against them in excess of £5,000.'


'"We believe 12,679 retailers have a high risk of insolvency out of more than 100,000 retailers nationally." The number at high risk, he said, was 40% up on December 2011.'

'The slump has also left many high streets depressed, with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) estimating that one in nine town centre shops is empty, the highest level since the trade body began compiling data, in July 2011.'


'The proportion of the UK population at risk of poverty has decreased slightly, from 17.1% in 2010 to 16.2% in 2011. Taken alone however, this figure could be misleading. A fall in real-terms median income has meant that the poverty threshold has changed, and with it, the proportion of Britons defined as being at risk of poverty.

A release today from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also includes social exclusion, a broader measure which combines several different dimensions of poverty. On this measure, Brits fare worse, with 22.7% of the UK population (equivalent to 14 million people) considered at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2011.'

Make what one will of that, but does it sound like a thriving economy that can survive alone? In the last 24 hours cracks in the German economy have been reported too. The French press of all persuasions is permanently at odds with policy. Italy faces total confusion as it goes into a general election and Spain is on its knees, as a larger economy actually more in jeopardy than Greece, Ireland or Portugal and the Catalans with the strongest part of the economy are braying for independence.

Again, I have placed emphasis on the UK. I also chose the most clearly written reportage, but just about the whole press is doing the same with more or less outrage.

Again, rather than being lead by the nose by politicians, shouldn't we be properly informed and allowed to make out own opinions? We are fed information that Euroland is falling apart when in fact it appears to be becoming more stable, and outside the zone there are growing rather than declining problems. If somebody laid out all the facts and truths then we could see which way to go. For now we seem only to have bad news and bravado about who can do what without everybody else. That does not help much at all.