New relationship?

After the much trumpted Special Relationship with the US, is the UK about to enter a New Relationship with the EU? The backbenchers of David Cameron’s Conservative Party are demanding that he take a tougher line on the problems the EU is facing and call a referendum to decide the fate of the UK’s involvement in it.

The report notes that “Mark Pritchard, the secretary of the 1922 committee of Conservative MPs, is the most senior Tory yet to demand a vote on Britain’s membership of the European Union following the eurozone crisis. Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Pritchard says that the EU has become an ‘occupying force’ which is eroding British sovereignty and that the ‘unquestioning support’ of backbenchers is no longer guaranteed”. To use such hyperbole and call the EU an “occupying force” is utter nonsense. It only panders to those who see the British Empire still existing and the UK as a powerful military and economic force instead of what it really is, a middle of the road power in a continent that is declining inexorably.  

The news article notes that Pritchard “says the Government should hold a referendum next year on whether Britain should have a ‘trade only’ relationship with the EU, rather than the political union which has evolved ‘by stealth'”. This is certainly a valid proposal. The only way the EU has progressed over the last fifty years has been through stealth, and citizens have given it the benefit of the doubt. Now both of these assumptions have been proven wrong.

Cameron however has a problem as “Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat Treasury minister, yesterday attacked Eurosceptics as being ‘enemies of growth’. In a clear warning to Mr Cameron, Mr Pritchard says Tory MPs have become tired of tolerating the “Europhile views” of Liberal Democrat ministers”. While such an attack from Alexander is unmerited, the UK does a vast amount of trade with the EU. Of course, this ignores the Tories legitimate concerns as to the political union that will have to come, should the EU wish the euro to survive.

The article notes that  “Cameron and George Osborne, the Chancellor, know that the unfolding crisis in the eurozone will give the Conservative party’s Eurosceptic MPs a chance to argue more powerfully for a realignment of Britain’s position in the EU”. However an article in the Economist doubts the very validity of such an argument.

It says that “Cameron’s government is wary of revisiting old rows over Europe, ministers know that the ‘golden opportunity’ thesis is mainstream Tory thinking”. Yet the same article notes that “George Eustice, the young MP who chaired the meeting, says national parliaments across Europe are questioning the hoarding of powers in Brussels, and claims: ‘Now is the moment for British leadership.'”

Yet it goes on to note how the ideas of the backbenchers “fit into two broad schools of thought. The first amounts to a hunch that—by holding the euro zone to ransom—Britain can be a free rider on Europe’s single market. This is variously dressed up with talk of the ‘Swiss model’ or of repatriating powers. But the basic idea is to access EU markets without paying EU regulatory costs”. The second school of thought “thinks even low-cost membership of the single market is a bad deal. Britain should leave the club, such ultrasceptics growl: world trade rules would guarantee tariff-free access to EU economies. And if trade rules fail, well, Britain buys more from the rest of the EU than vice versa, so it is in Europe’s interests not to raise barriers to trade. Anyway, Europe is in sclerotic decline, they scoff: the future lies in emerging markets”.

EU is in no mood to take a lead from the UK government. The article notes that “If Britain overbids on its demands, it would move from irrelevance to isolation (and face calls to start paying towards euro-zone bail-outs).”  Tackling the Swiss model it argues that “Switzerland gets to be a free rider because it is small. And because it is small, Switzerland’s absence does not affect the nature of the single market”.

It concludes saying that “government should plan defensively in case a moment for horse-trading arises. But it should seek a narrow, valuable and—if timed right—achievable concession”.

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4 Responses to “New relationship?”

  1. Wanting it both ways « Order and Tradition Says:

    […] itself from some of its obligations”. This latter hope, the so called Swiss model, has been commented on here […]

  2. Hope? « Order and Tradition Says:

    […] is convinced of its own superiority and how it doesn’t need the EU and should just become like Switzerland, despite the fact that it geographically part of the European […]

  3. In or out « Order and Tradition Says:

    […] is in the best interests of the UK, with the Swiss model being generally cited. However, there are problems underlying this […]

  4. Understanding British euroscepticism « Order and Tradition Says:

    […] wish to remain in the EU but as trading partners. This has been discussed, such as the Norwegian or Swiss models. Both of which implausible in the long […]

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