As I write, David Cameron has returned defeated and embarrassed or triumphant and unrepentant depending on which headline you read from Ypres. His failure to get all but one of the Euro leaders to agree with him on the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as the next Commission President has made the headlines. But what is most revealing is whose headlines say what. I find it disappointing that the BBC on its news website reveals that the Prime Minister "comes under attack". Leading figures such as Ed Milliband claim that we are closer to EU exit, placing our economy under threat. Nigel Farrage from UKIP claims that Cameron was humiliated for pursuing the policies that UKIP claims as their own. The Times indicates that a referendum on exit is closer but notes placatory messages supposedly coming from the other Euro leaders. I found not one comment from Nick Clegg.
Released to the media in recent days have been highly uncomplimentary remarks about our Prime Minister by other Euro leaders (or at least their underlings) and there seem to be allegations that J-P Juncker is not only an arch federalist with experience of running a country rather smaller than a number of our bigger companies, but also that he likes a drink or two (or rather more than that according to some sources). But he has impeccable credential to undertake the job, after all he served in Jacques Santer's cabinet, while he was Prime Minister of Luxembourg, and what job did he take after retiring, why the President of the European Commission!!
But this spat is about more than which insignificant takes his buggins turn at the top, it is about how the future of Europe is crafted. Our Prime Minister is one of 28 political leaders in the Union. He packs quite a punch (whatever Messrs Farage and Milliband say) and gets real headlines (for the right or the wrong reasons). Those committed to the EU want the electorate to do what they are told and not rock the boat as happened in the recent elections. We as a country elect our MEPs and few of those are out and out "boat rockers" so our influence in the EU Parliament is diluted and actually not able to interfere with the crowning of J-P Juncker as President of the EU Commission.
This constant to-ing and fro-ing argument about our membership of the EU is a concern. On one side there is the argument that the British people have never had a say on our membership of the organisation and that in reality the bureaucratic generation of regulations is costing us more than membership has ever benefitted us. On the other side there is the argument that even questioning our membership will lead to economic disaster, the loss of jobs and our exclusion from ever being able to have influence again. So much for having influence judging by how outvoted our Prime Minister was in Ypres.
That two of the major political parties do not want to give us any choice (that assumes that the Lib Dems retain any seats after the forthcoming election) suggests that both feel that the electors have no right to have a say in this most important long term decision. Mind you we have never had our say since Ted Heath allegedly sold us down the river. Of the two other parties the Tories are in constant internal angst on the subject and of course Nigel Farage is not pleased with the recent vote in Ypres as it does give some credence to Cameron's Euro sceptic stance.
This is a debate that will run and run, as indeed it should. The politicians do not really want a referendum, as the decision might actually require them to do exactly what the people want!David IngallPast President
UK 200 Group
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