Archiv für die Kategorie „PMs Europe Speech – Gregor Dallas“

A Return to Pragmatism in UK – EU Relations?

Donnerstag, 17. Juli 2014

Here’s an article by Thomas Fillis and published on-line in European Public Affairs:
A Return to Pragmatism? Lord Hill announced as UK Commissioner Designate

“British Prime Minister David Cameron has just announced Jonathan Hopkin Hill, Baron Hill of Oareford (ergo Lord Hill) as the British Commissioner designate. This nomination may prove to be the most important in UK-EU relations, and indeed in the history of the College of Commissioners, given the ever-more precarious position of the UK within the European Union. The choice will speak volumes about Cameron?s strategic calculations, as regards his proposed ?renegotiation? (a concept as abstract as the constantly mooted, but never defined, ?reform? of the EU) and the negotiating tactics he will use.”

Facing up to Tory Eurosceptics

Donnerstag, 6. Februar 2014

Adam Boulton writing in The Sunday Times senses that for Prime Minister Cameron, Chancellor Osborne and Foreign Secretary Hague, staying in Europe has become a major priority.

George Osborne speaking at a recent ?Pan-European? conference hosted by the Open Europe think tank and the Fresh Start group of Tory MPs, apparently gave the clearest indication yet of what the Prime Minister might be aiming to renegotiate before his 2017 referendum on continuing EU membership i.e.
1. The Euro: To seek guarantees that EU member countries not in the common currency area can remain so, without strictures on them being imposed by the Eurozone members.
2. Welfare: With the support of Germany in particular and other richer EU members, to introduce curbs on migration within the framework of ?freedom of movement? for more control at national level of the associated spending on welfare.
3. Single market: Accepting that the EU needs to become more competitive globally, to accelerate completion of the single market e.g. for services, by allowing Britain and other large EU states to integrate more quickly while smaller states can still protect their home markets.

It will be interesting to see whether such an approach will allow PM Cameron to out-manoeuvre the estimated one third of total Conservative MPs who are exploiting the rise of UKIP to promote their euroscepicism. At constituency level Tory activists are also said to be generally more Eurosceptic but actual Tory voters seem more in tune with the general public in that the EU does not appear in the top 10 of their major concerns!

Reference: N° 11 signals a way to halt the Eurosceptic express, Adam Boulton, The Sunday Times 19.01.14.

Cameron’s Negotiation With EU (for comment)

Freitag, 29. November 2013

It has been suggested that I write about the concessions Cameron should attempt to wrest from the European Union, as a preliminary to the holding of a referendum on EU membership.

This is a very difficult challenge. Cameron has up till now been very circumspect in revealing his intentions in this respect because, it is said, they are going to be regarded as too minimalist to satisfy his backbenchers and too minimalist to counter the threat from the UKIP in the 2015 elections. These considerations may result in his waiting till after the election to reveal his hand.

What are the areas in which he is most likely to make his demands?

1) A limitation of the strictures regarding Human Rights? The Government has probably already achieved all it can expect in this area.

2) Protection against measures limiting the freedom of the City’s financial market, on which Paris and Frankfurt cast envious eyes, by, for instance, requiring a universal vote so that Britain would have a veto to exercise.

3) Greater freedom to institute measures limiting immigration. This is probably the issue of greatest concern to the electorate and the one to which other countries would be most responsive. His first step is to make welfare measures unavailable to people immigrating with too inadequate financial prospects, aimed chiefly at Rumanians and Bulgarians.

4) Surely, restrictions of the powers of the Brussels administration to impose bureaucratic regulations in the spheres of labour laws, food standards etc. which are probably the major cause of public dissatisfaction with membership of the EU.

5) The expansion of the EU mandate to cover free exchange of services, not just goods.

Cameron is probably caught in a real dilemma. There is little sympathy with Britain’s cause among other members of the EU. Merkel has expressed some feeling of common cause and the Netherlands have evinced some desire to limit Brussels powers but they only want to limit further extension of the powers, not to carry out major revisions.

There is little sympathy among Britain?s EU partners for its demands for yet more exceptionalist treatment. And why would they want to satisfy Britain’s demands for it, knowing that she may subsequently choose to leave the Union anyway?

There is one possible area for hope. There is a desire among countries led by France to carry out greater consolidation of the Union, probably necessitating a revision of the Treaty. This would require a universal vote, which would greatly strengthen Britain’s bargaining position.

One last thought. Surely the one most vital consideration is that of trade, remembering that 50% of our trade is with Europe. It is significant that virtually all of our captains of industry are opposed to our leaving the EU. Some people claim it would be ?a gift to the French? as it would discourage foreign investment in Britain by US and Asian investors, if Britain lost assured access to the European markets.

Michael Webster

How to Widen Tory Appeal?

Mittwoch, 31. Juli 2013

Tim Montgomery writing in The Times July 29th 2013, proposes Five Ways to Widen the Tory Appeal and Win the next general election in 2015.

He assumes that by 2015, voters are likely to see the Tories as a party of deficit reduction, welfare control and Euro-scepticism. The party?s 2015 election campaign would then need to reinforce these strengths as well as counter an anticipated Liberal Democrat claim that, but for them in the Coalition, the Tories would have governed for the rich and powerful. Therefore, he suggests the five key pledges below for the next Tory manifesto which must also put concern for the lower-paid at its heart.

1. No more tax on petrol or home energy bills
2. A higher pension and a lower welfare cap.
3. Help for more first-time buyers to own their own home.
4. More apprenticeships for Britain?s youngest workers
5. A referendum on Britain?s membership of the EU.

These pledges are aimed at reaching more voters (e.g. private sector workers, home owners and the grey vote) than at the last election in 2010, while leaving the door open to the possibility of a second Lib-Dem Tory Coalition, instead of driving the Liberal Democrats into the arms of Labour.

The article also identifies other issues on which the Tories could still be vulnerable and which are generally the major concerns of voters such as the Economy, Health, Education and Immigration. However, on the major issue for the Conservative party itself (but not necessarily the voters) of an EU referendum , the author could be considered rather optimistic in suggesting that by 2015 it is likely that both Labour and the Liberal Democrats will have matched Mr Cameron?s EU referendum promise to ?trust the people?.

The risk still remains of the party descending into civil war over Europe e.g. if Mr Cameron has to compromise on his EU referendum pledge during Coalition negotiations in 2015. The Conservative party also needs to more clearly differentiate itself from UKIP by not linking the issue of uncontrolled immigration to membership of the EU.

No Effective Debate on Europe in Parliament – by Gregor Dallas

Sonntag, 14. Juli 2013

Last week, 5 July, I watched on BBC Parliament TV the second reading in the House of Commons of James Wharton?s private bill on the European referendum. James Wharton is the youngest Member of Parliament and he argues that he is ?speaking for millions of people? who want a vote on British membership of the European Union that is ?long overdue?. He has the support of the Prime Minister, David Cameron, but this cannot be a government bill because the Liberal Democrat half of the Coalition is dead set against it.
When I switched on the channel I discovered a Chamber that was very empty. Over half of the House was apparently boycotting the proceedings ? surely the most significant fact of the debate. But I must admit that the debate was lively and the speakers were wonderfully articulate, which is one of the pleasures of our little parliamentary house. They were, like their leader, mostly young; they are the Eurosceptics brought in on the wake of the Great Expense Scandal Purge of 2009. If ever proof is demanded of the political motive behind that parliamentary upheaval, it is in the opinions expressed by the members here present: the purpose of the purge was to clear the waters of the flotsam caused by all those pro-Europeans floating about. Since the takeover of Conservative Party by the Eurosceptics after John Major fell from power, those pro-Europeans have been a source of considerable annoyance to the party. The purge was largely successful. We now have in Parliament a party that is young and Eurosceptic.
They demand a referendum because they want Britain out of Europe. In their view Britain never wanted anything other than a free trade area ? an extension not of the EU but of EFTA, that essentially British institution which you have probably forgotten about; but, yes, this British alternative to the Common Market created in 1960 still exists on the frontiers of the current EU, with all four of its members, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The EU is still growing, despite its economic problems. The lesson of the EFTA debacle was surely that you can?t have a free-trade zone of separate nations without a good dose of politics.
Fifty years later a young generation of Brits ? the supporters of this private bill ? still hanker after this kind of ?free-trade area?. They are in revolt against an EU that aims at an ?ever closer union?, which was in the preamble of the Treaty of Rome of 1957 that created the Common Market. It was still there at the time of Britain?s referendum of 1975. Did the British people misunderstand it? That may be the problem with referendums. At any rate, that hated phrase ?ever closer union? was quoted several times in the debate last week. These young members do not want to be ever closer to Europe. They don?t want the flag, the anthem, the parliament, the commission, the ?politics? of the EU. Just free trade. But then they don?t want the Euro either. In fact they don?t really want the ?economics? of the EU; they are convinced ? if you listened to their speeches last week ? of British economic superiority.
But the pound is once more in decline, a trend that it has followed since 1947, Britain is still in recession and European productivity has continually outperformed Britain?s for all but the last two years. Furthermore, the British state is facing what could be two imminent simultaneous catastrophes, not only the exit from the European Union but also the break-up of the United Kingdom. Will it only be a rump UK that votes to pull out of the Union?
The tendency not only in Europe but in the world as a whole is towards a greater union of peoples, what we call ?globalization?. It is likely that South East Asia and Latin America will, in time, move towards greater union. There is no doubt that the EU is setting a trend here, and that includes her currency union which, despite the current troubles, is holding up pretty well ¬? there is no more talk, for example, of the Greek disease spreading elsewhere. That currency union is going to hold, notwithstanding British jibes at a currency system that go back to the 1970s. Eurosceptics have proven to be, over the last half century, very poor prophets.
Central to last week?s Eurosceptic arguments is the issue of sovereignty. Britain, say these MPs, must ?claw back? legislation that is now going through Brussels rather than through Parliament. Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, who wasn?t there because UKIP has no MPs in Parliament, claims 70 per cent of Britain?s legislation is now made in Europe. In the last few days he has upped that figure to 75 per cent.
Sovereignty should be the concern of all of us. Now in France sovereignty, since the time of the Revolution, ?resides in the nation? (according to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen). This is why the country has periodically held national referendums. These referendums have a terrible history. Under the two Napoleons the referendums were used to enfeeble parliamentary regimes. They are essentially a Bonapartist tool. That is why the distinguished political historian, René Rémond, considered the Gaullists to be part of the French Bonapartist tradition. The Third and Fourth Republics were parliamentary regimes and they never had referendums. The Fifth Republic is a presidential regime with something of a Bonapartist allure to it. Charles de Gaulle, its inventor, deliberately included the national referendum in its constitution. Ironically, de Gaulle was destroyed by the referendum; one could even say it killed him. Since the disappearance of Mitterrand the Fifth Republic has increasingly taken on the airs of a parliamentary regime owing to the appearance of ?cohabitation? where the President belongs to one political family whilst the Prime Minister and Government belongs to another. Under de Gaulle this was not supposed to happen. But now it is almost a regular feature. Parliamentary regimes don?t live well under referendums, so in France one can expect them to be gradually abandoned. This is especially true since the catastrophic 2005 referendum under Jacques Chirac when the extreme left combined with the extreme right to get a ?No? vote on the European constitution. Governments and Parliaments do not have to accept the verdict of a popular referendum. The ?No? vote was overturned by the Treaty of Lisbon in 2007. So here the European political factor was used by Nicholas Sarkozy to keep the European project on track. The Eurosceptics in Britain of course screamed foul. But if Lisbon had not have been agreed, there would have been chaos, which could only have delighted the nationalists. The 2005 referendum, which had the same negative result in the Netherlands, but not in Spain, contains some important lessons for those approaching a referendum in Britain. Yes, it is a democracy of sorts, a Bonapartist democracy which enfeebles parliamentary regimes.
Germany has a parliamentary regime. Because of her Nazi past, when the country was overrun by nationalist forces, referendums are forbidden by the country?s wise constitution.
Britain is said to have an unwritten constitution although, as a matter of fact, if one were to staple together Westminster?s statutory laws, dating from the Bill of Rights of 1688 and through the Acts of Union, one would effectively have Britain?s written constitution. A number of constitutional textbooks have done just that.
Nowhere in this ?written constitution? is any mention made to national referendums. Local referendums have occurred, such as on the opening hours of pubs. The only national British referendum to occur in history was Harold Wilson?s referendum of 1975, called because the Labour Party could not make up its mind about Europe. Now it is the Conservative Party which is divided.
Britain has a parliamentary regime. Since Bagehot and Dicey British constitutionalists have emphasized that sovereignty lies not in the nation, like in revolutionary France, but in Parliament. A distinct distrust has traditionally been felt by the British for referendums, expressed sscinctly in Clement Atlee?s line, since picked up by Margaret Thatcher, that ?referendums are the tool of dictators and demagogues.? Referendums weaken the sovereignty of Parliament.
Margaret Thatcher?s ghost haunted the Chamber last week. In particular, Preti Patel for Witham cited her as a model for Eurosceptics to follow. Now Patel is somebody to watch; she has great poise and speaks with considerable gusto and conviction ? rather like Margaret Thatcher. She could well become a major leader. The trouble is, she is wrong. She began politics campaigning for Jimmy Goldsmith?s Referendum Party ? and this passion for referendums could throw her of the rails. Her father, a Ugandan Asian immigrant, stood last April ? in a very muddled campaign ? for UKIP in a Hertfordshire by-election. Unfortunately, Thatcher is the model behind this; it cannot be denied. Margaret Thatcher, though she signed the Single Act of 1986, the most radical of all European treaties, did not have a good legacy on Europe. When UKIP claims to be the only true Thatcherite party in Britain they are, on the European issue, telling the sorry truth. On Europe, Thatcher in the end relied on private consultation (that of Professor Alan Walters). She went behind Parliament?s back, and that is why she had to go.
The new breed of English nationalist, with Thatcherism as its source, preaches ?direct democracy? based on referendums. They are not scrupulous parliamentarians. That is, they are not fully convinced that Parliament is sovereign. They would probably say the nation is sovereign, like French revolutionaries. They have a distinct distrust of parliamentarians, as they showed during the Expense Scandal. This distrust was evident in last week?s speeches ¬? as in the repeated phrase, ?of course, Parliament may well overthrow this democratic bill.? And they will not stop with this one referendum, if they get it. If they had their way they would destroy the Euro and the European Union. They would ally, as they already have, with other nationalist, extra-parliamentary parties in Europe. Their policies are identical to Marine Le Pen?s Front National.
Both the FN and the British Eurosceptics believe in ?direct democracy? as opposed to parliamentary democracy. Eurosceptics, like all European nationalist parties, are against most international institutions. It has been pointed out that Britain, if she were to quit the European Union, would in all likelihood lose her permanent seat in the Security Council of the United Nations. These English nationalists couldn?t give a hoot: they don?t like the United Nations.
It is English nationalism that has brought Scotland to the brink of independence. As the Conservative Party lurched towards English nationalism, so support for the Party dwindled in Scotland. Significantly, the Scottish Conservative Party merged in 1960 with the Unionist Party which stood for a united UK ? now it only has one MP in Westminster! Scottish Conservatives, once the strength of Scotland, have been replaced by Scot Nats. So there is a direct correlation between the rise of Euroscepticism in England, the demise of the Scottish Conservative Party and the rise of the independence movement in Scotland. So it should be no surprise that Scottish independence and the threatened British exit from the European Union are simultaneous. They are different aspects of the same nationalist phenomenon. The nuclear question we are now facing is: would an independent Scotland, like independent Ireland, adopt the Euro. If Scotland seeks genuine financial independence from England the answer is an inescapable ?Yes?.
I think this is a catastrophic scenario. Scottish independence could come next year, in 2014. Then a rump Britain could exit from the EU. That combination would cause havoc with our parliamentary system, which has done us so well for 500 years. Contrary to what the Eurosceptics argue, the EU strengthens British sovereignty and the union of the UK because it strengthens the country. Go down the road of UK breakup and rump British exit and you face fragmentation, poverty and chaos. That is not what we want.
Nationalism works like a steamroller: it flattens all before it; it flattens out all wrinkle crevices and variants and leaves us with the flat plain of the orthodox national ideology. That has happened in the past in Germany, in Italy and, indeed, large swathes of Europe where the nationalist enthusiasms spread their poison. That is why the European Union was created. It is the danger that all Europe still faces. Its promise is one that always ends up in violence (witness the Balkans). It is the European Union which prevents it and offers continental wide stablility.
Nationalism works against Parliaments, it is extra-parliamentary and it creates terrible silences; it stifles debate. And I am afraid that is just what we were witnessing last week in Parliament, but with more than half of Parliament absent.
About thirty or forty years ago I remember writing an article arguing that the traditional political divide in Britain between left and right was gradually giving way to a divide between Nationalists and Europeans, Little Englanders and Federalists. The Guardian, I think that was the paper, did not publish it. But I still think that this is what is happening. At the time ? I was still a student ¬? I was rather pleased at the prospect. Today it worries me. I see it as a sign of parliamentary decline, and that should please no one.
Consider what really happened last week. The debate took place and then the division was taken and the members retired to the lobbies. On television all you could see was an empty House for about fifteen minutes. Finally the two tellers came before the Speaker and announced the vote: 304 votes to zero. So a unanimous vote for the referendum! But there are 650 seats in Parliament. So this unanimous vote was made up of well under half of Parliament because the majority boycotted the session.
One half of the House was not talking to the other half. Debate is what parliamentary democracy is all about. On the question of the European referendum there has been no decent parliamentary debate. Instead, there is silence. Historically, we know that that is what nationalism does to the political body: it creates a flaccid inertness.
In the past decade or so I thought this was a Conservative Party disease. Conservatives have been silent on Europe because it divides the party. European Conservatives have been so silent and thus ineffective because of a fear of dividing the party. That concern to maintain silence has even crossed frontiers. In 2006 Nicholas Sarkozy was invited to the Conservative Party Conference ?provided,? stipulated David Cameron, ?he did not speak about Europe?; Sarkozy didn?t come.
But now one sees that this disease of silence has spread across the parties. It could become a national disease ¬? as occurred in Germany and in Italy in the interwar years. The pro-Europeans chose boycott rather than debate, that is, they chose silence. The European issue and the referendum has paralysed Parliament in the same way that the European Conservatives were paralysed by the emergence of nationalist Eurosceptics.
Is it possible that the United Kingdom will break up and what is left of the UK will leave the EU ¬? under a pall of parliamentary silence? The nationalist Eurosceptic arguments for a pure free trade area, British economic superiority, the need to ?claw back? legislation to protect national sovereignty and their apparent misunderstanding of Britain?s constitution never receive an answer or a retort in Parliament. Never a word of opposition is spoken. Debate has been silenced. The prospect is sinister.

GD
Le Vieil Estrée
12 July 2013

2,604 words

Referendums

Donnerstag, 27. Juni 2013

British Conservatives in Paris members and friends debated the following motion on 25th June, 2013. A brief summary is given of the main points made by the speakers for and against the motion.

Motion:
The referendum as an instrument of government is incompatible with parliamentary democracy.

For: Robin Baker (Proposer)
The debate in the UK for a referendum on EU membership ignores the associated impact on British democracy. Sovereignty of Parliament is the key constitutional issue here. A referendum should not be an instrument for key decisions on major issues as this is the role of Parliament for which such a mechanism already exists. Referendums are no way of measuring public opinion and indeed have been referred to as the device of dictators, whereas legislation passed by Parliament can be more easily reversed.

Against: Alex Carroll (Proposer)
Parliament represents the opinion of the people voting for MPs only on the day (last time they did not vote for a Coalition). People deserve a direct say from time to time and particularly on EU membership with many MPs for and against in all the major parties (even Europhile Labour). Sometimes trust the people to decide, most of these having some education. A referendum can, therefore, be a rarely used, instrument to demonstrate the will of the people (including the silent majority). Remember, there are no rules binding MPs to accept a referendum decision taken.

For: Michael Webster (Seconder)
The referendum is the tyranny of democracy. An EU referendum with its potential negative impact on Britain?s EU trade and seat on the UN Security Council (with France/UK representing the EU) is difficult for the average voter to understand. The public can be fickle and quickly influenced by events, with referendum decisions sometimes difficult to undo e.g. as California finds with its tax laws.

Against: Dominique de Biasi (Seconder)
France?s presidential democracy refused a referendum on « mariage pour tous » even though the people were demonstrating in the streets. The people should be allowed their democratic say through a referendum on such an emotional and divisive issue which also impacts personal religious convictions.

Result
Following some lively interventions from the floor both for and against, the motion was defeated with 8 votes for and 12 votes against.

Join the debate
How would you (or did you) vote and why? Join the debate by clicking on the ( ) comments link below and sharing your thoughts.

PM Cameron’s Relations with Old Tories – by Michael Webster

Mittwoch, 29. Mai 2013

Bagehot, an editorialist of the Economist, paints a gloomy picture of Prime Minister Cameron’s relations with the Tory old guard.

The Conservative Associations around Britain are growing increasingly disgruntled with his policies on immigration, defence cuts, a too weak exit strategy from Europe and, above all, gay marriage. Their members? average age is approaching 60 and they cling to the old values of sound economic policies, Church, family and strong policing.

David Cameron, after three successive Tory electoral defeats, felt the need for change. Hence, his “modernising” campaign (which he sold as a reaffirmation of Conservative values), included favouring gay marriage and renewable energy. However, he failed to obtain an outright majority necessitating a coalition with the Liberals and the adoption of policies which further watered down Conservative ones.

The population is ageing and senior citizens are more likely to vote. Yet it seems to me that there is a great need to rejuvenate the Party and make it an important priority to increase our appeal to a younger generation, if we are to have a hope of winning the next election.

Merkel “to lobby for UK membership” of EU.

Freitag, 17. Mai 2013

David Cameron is facing renewed pressure over Europe after Angela Merkel has said she would lobby for “our British friends” to remain in the EU.

The head of the CBI John Cridland has also warned that the “inward-looking” tussle over Europe looks like a “diversion” from promoting growth and competitiveness.

Voters also appear unimpressed, with a poll showing 64% think Mr Cameron is motivated more by tactics than principle when it comes to Europe.

But leading eurosceptic Peter Bone is pleased with the new focus, telling The House magazine it has put Parliament at “the centre of the political debate”.

Following the strong showing of UKIP with some 25% of the vote in the recent local council elections, this could just be viewed as the eurosceptic wing naturally pressuring Conservative party strategists to now try and “Out-UKIP UKIP”. However, this can lead the party into the dangerous and emotive waters of Immigration, not necessarily a vote winner in swing seats at a general election and when the Economy, Employment and Healthcare are considered much more important issues.

Mr Cameron also has to respond to the perception of voters that he is motivated more by tactics than principle when it comes to EU membership. Noting that Mrs Thatcher in her prime was not necessarily liked but respected for her conviction in getting things done, the prime minister now has the opportunity to show more conviction & leadership on Europe given the powerful and influential helping hand that Chancellor Merkel has extended to him.

As open trading nations, there is a natural alignment of interests between Britain and Germany in taking maximum benefit from “deepening” the current single market in Europe and removing structural obstacles to competitiveness and growth. The opportunity is there for the Uk to benefit from a strong partnership with Germany, given the current imbalance in economic power and influence within the traditional Franco-German axis.

The PM’s Speech on Europe – A Commentary by Author & Historian Gregor Dallas.

Mittwoch, 27. März 2013

The recent speech on Europe by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, delivered early in the morning so that nobody would hear it, contains numerous historical errors and it omits so many important aspects of British politics that I feel obliged to write a brief separate commentary here. The questions posed at the end of the paper are framed within the narrow context of the speech and do not allow one to point out its principal flaws. Presumably one can forward my comments to Central Office along with our group?s reactions.
http://www.conservativepolicyforum.com/policy/europe
The European Union, it is true, was first and foremost a product of the Second World War, hence the stated aim in the Treaty of Rome?s preamble to draw Europe into ?ever closer union?. This is a Christian aim and it is built on the fact that Europe once was ?Christendom?. It is based on the idea that the nations will be so drawn together that no member state will have the space to stretch out and smite its neighbour.

Mr Cameron is entirely wrong to think that this principle can today be abandoned. ?Today the main, over-riding purpose of the European Union is… not to win peace, but to secure prosperity.? No, it is both. That ?ever closer union? is an almost sacred principle of the EU. A war situation can develop overnight, as illustrated in the Balkans in the 1990s.

Parallel to this is another post-war development: practically every major Western European country lost an overseas empire in the decades following the Second World War. This was followed by the collapse of the Soviet Empire in Eastern Europe. The two phenomena are obviously related. The collapse of empire led, in every nation concerned, with an immediate commitment to Europe, sometimes within days and even within hours of the loss of empire.

The one exception was Britain. Britain never really abandoned the idea of Empire and Commonwealth. It remains a part of British identity today in the widespread idea that Britain?s essential future lies overseas rather than on the Continent.

The loss of empire was, none the less, traumatic. That traumatism has found expression in the development of an increasingly virulent form of English nationalism (politely misnamed ?Euroscepticism?) that has never been witnessed in Britain before. Mr Cameron is very wrong to claim that Britain is characterized today by her openness. This was true in the first half of the twentieth century, when nearly every European country was subject to the poison of nationalism. But today the situation has reversed: Britain, and particularly England, is a closed, narrow and angry country. And it is getting worse.

How else does one explain the emergence of two simultaneous catastrophes that could happen with-in the next few years: the breakup of the United Kingdom and departure from the European Union? A rump United Kingdom would have difficulty surviving alone. And no one should underestimate how dire Britain?s economic situation is. Real incomes are declining, her manufacturing sector is very weak, and the pound is doing what it has done since the 1940s – dropping.

Mr Cameron woould like us to abandon the image of a fast track and slow track Europe. Yet this does correspond to a certain reality. He dwells on the Euro crisis. But he forgets, probably because English media give such a distorted image of the world, that except for this last year of crisis, the Eurozone has out-performed Britain in GNP. No doubt the Euro crisis will one day be resolved, for the necessary collective political will — the essential ingredient — is there. One has reason to doubt the same success in the world sterling area: since the Second World War the results have been poor; a disunited UK, independent of the EU, would have difficulty keeping her head out of the water.

The current Parliament is not the most brilliant we have had in the last few hundred years. It was brought in in the wake of an MPs? expense scandal which saw experienced MPs lose their jobs for scandals involving sometimes less than £100. Many of those MPs were fervent Europeans. The new intake was young and inexperienced. Their idea about national sovereignty is not faithful to the traditional British notion of sovereignty going back at least as far Bagehot and Dicey: the notion of parliamentary sovereignty: Britain used to have an Unwritten Constitution. It was an ordered constitution and up until the 1960s it worked. Then they started chipping away at it. The greatest threat to Britain is not Europe?s constitution but the lack of a constitution in Britain which, combined with a generation of English nationalism, could lead the country into crisis.

Mr Cameron suggests we abandon the European Court of Human Rights, one of whose founding nations was Britain. No civilised nation in the world can afford to abandon Human Rights.

Mr Cameron seems to believe the Euro hinders the economic competitivity of the member states. On the contrary, the Euro enforces a discipline on the member states that encourages fiscal discipline and controls inflation that leads the way to a more competitive economy: witness Germany. And compare Germany to Britain, an inflationary economy, or Italy — remember the ?years of lead??

But worst of all, Mr Cameron wants to introduce a referendum which flies in the face of British parliamentary sovereignty.

Gregor Dallas
Author and Historian
19 March 2013