Monday, 9 July 2012

David Cameron's mood music on an EU referendum

by Marc Glendening

David Cameron's vague statement last week that the government might hold an EU referendum at some unspecified point in the future, but not involving the option of us actually quitting membership, has been roundly ridiculed.

Deservedly so. This was the prime minister doing a traditional political 'taking you for a fool' act, reminiscent of his predecessors Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

With so many mainstream politicians in this post-rational, post-modern era, political declarations are more about making mood music, creating vague impressions, conveying a sense of aesthetic well-being, rather than about actual, hard content.

However, those of us who really do want a in/out referendum should take some heart from the fact that DC felt the need to come out with the disingenuous statement he did.

Given that even a few weeks back the official No 10 line was that very few of us wanted the chance to vote on the EU and that the campaign for a referendum could be airily brushed aside, it is clear that Cameron, being the arch opportunist that he is, now appreciates the degree of momentum behind our democratic movement.

In part this is because of the number of Labour politicians now calling for a referendum or saying that one is inevitable: Peter Mandelson, Peter Hain, Alan Johnson, Natasha Engel, Keith Vaz among many others including, most significantly of all perhaps, Jon Cruddas, the MP now in charge of Labour's policy review and a signed up supporter of the People's Pledge EU referendum campaign.

This issue places the prime minister in a particularly difficult position as someone who says there is no alternative to being in the EU, but simultaneously tries to maintain his EU-sceptical credentials by claiming that he wants to see various powers re-negotiated back to Westminster from Brussels.

The reason he continues to rule out an in/out referendum is that he neither wants to be forced to campaign to stay in an unreformed EU (given that the EU cannot be fundamentally changed through negotiation), so blowing his EU-sceptical credentials for all time - but nor does he want, self-evidently, to associate himself with the out of the EU movement.

Within the next two to three years the EU will move towards a further centralisation of power - fiscal union - in order to save the euro from collapse. This will have huge implications for countries like Britain, Denmark and Sweden that are in the EU but outside the single currency.

Semi-detachment from the Pan-Europeanist project will simply not be an option. We will be confronted with an all or nothing scenario. The 'third way', re-negotiationist position rhetorically championed by Cameron and others will be finally exposed as impossibilist nonsense.

That moment has not yet arrived, but it soon will do.

by Marc Glendening, DM campaign director

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