Cameron’s Negotiation With EU

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