“Tiptoeing round in a little circle”
Margaret Beckett was underrated as a Labour minister and foreign secretary. So it was a pleasure to be on Iain Dale’s show on LBC with her this morning to talk about Europe. She was quite dry when Dale suggested that the Prime Minister might be inching towards the EU exit:
I don’t think David Cameron is inching anywhere. He’s tiptoeing round in a little circle on the spot.
The reason we were on was that The Observer had chosen as its front-page lead a report, also available in a rival publication (scroll down), that Tony Blair is to say that Britain ought to stay in the EU in a speech on Wednesday.
I thought this was a more powerful message when Beckett said it, because she campaigned against Britain’s membership in the 1975 referendum. Blair’s views on Europe are well known and unchanged, although I am sure that when he gives his speech there will be something of interest in it.
However, to the extent that Beckett and Blair make the argument from “influence” rather than “economics” I doubt whether it will be enough to persuade the British people, who might in other circumstances be described as sceptical about the benefits of EU membership.
As I said in The Independent on Sunday today, the decisive arguments, when the referendum comes, which may not be for many years yet, will be economic. If we can be sure that we would have access to the single market, then there would be little to keep the UK in the EU political structure, especially as half of it will belong to the eurozone group, from which we will definitely be excluded anyway.
The argument that we have to be “at the top table” to negotiate trade agreements with China is not one that I think would impress many people in a referendum campaign.
Photograph: ReutersTagged in: david cameron, europe, euroscepticism
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