Cameron on Europe “turned a trap into a tryst with destiny”

John Rentoul

Cameron at Brussels EU su 008 300x180 Cameron on Europe turned a trap into a tryst with destinyDavid Hayes has a lovely long essay on Britain’s history with Europe in Inside Story, an Australian website. He sees the crisis of the eurozone as a big moment in this long story, which “makes the prime minister’s referendum démarche on 23 January all the more intelligible, and his craftsmanship in turning a political trap into a tryst with destiny all the more impressive”.

It is written for an international audience, which makes its clarity and grasp of long themes so superb. I recommend it all, but if you haven’t time, here is the conclusion:

First, so polarised has this debate been for so long that it will be very hard to establish even a shared definition of its terms as a basis for the detailed public discussion to follow.

Second, there will be more fissures and realignments inside as well as between both main camps. It may be, for example, that the incompatible visions within the Eurosceptic pantomime-horse – the populist anti-immigrant moralisers of the UKIP, the localising eco-left, and the globalising libertarians – will at last properly be explored. The argument that Britain can and should become a flexible, dynamic, low-tax hub of world trade – and that this is the exit-route from economic stagnation as well as from Europe – needs to be made, as does the argument that only a radical shift towards a more settled, hi-tech, low-carbon economy can ensure prosperity and security.

Cameron’s “Euroreformers” – as they may come to be called – will also find it hard to build a cohesive coalition in favour of the endgame the prime minister seeks. Some outflanking will come from the contentedly pro-EU side as business lobbies and new pressure groups mobilise; and internal Tory pressures will accentuate as EU reform (and eurozone integration) evolve between now and 2017. (The perceptive Alex Massie even predicts these will result in a split – though perhaps the UKIP is, in effect, that split).

Third, for all the appeal of declinism, elections (and referendums) in Britain tend to be won more by optimism. This is bad news for gloom-spreading Europhobes (and, insofar as they dominate the Eurosceptic camp, the latter as a whole), and may in the end – despite current evidence – be good news for independence campaigners in Scotland.

Fourth, the “in or out” question is also the latest episode of displacement in this, the genre’s master-country. Much of the post-1945 history reviewed here can be read as one of abortive modernisations – with Wilson, Heath, Thatcher, Blair and now Cameron as the leading cast. In this long-running play, “Europe” is – and perhaps always was – a convenient hook on which to hang a problem that is actually internal to the country: an unresolved sense of its post-imperial place in the world.

In this larger frame, the next several years begin to look even more testing for a Britain more confident with its past than comfortable with any of the futures on offer. Perhaps the machinery of governance will continue on its adaptive way – after all, muddling through is arguably not just what Britain does, but what it is. For all that, a country used to evading clear choices for so long may one day find that it has lost the ability to make them.

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  • angelleb

    Housing costs have only 2 main factors – SUPPLY and DEMAND.

    SUPPLY of rental accommodation and the number of people looking for rental accommodation (DEMAND). The supply of rental housing is nothing the government can really do anything about as its too far in debt to build houses.

    But when the population increases by 5 million purely from legal and illegal immigration then the demand outstrips supply which is why we have the unbelievable situation of rising house prices as well as rising rental prices during a recession/depression – this is UNPRECEDENTED.

    How can you have property prices going up during a double/triple dip recession? Well because the bottom of the property ladder is being held up by property investors who can see the good returns from renting out cheap houses to people on low incomes.

    The only way to stop rising rent prices is to hold back UNCONTROLLED MASS immigration and allow housing numbers to catch up through private house building until such a time as there are houses for immigrants to move into.

    At the moment there are too many immigrants taking cash in hand jobs for less than the minimum wage and they make it work by living 10 to house. Do you think this is a good way for people in country to be living?

    While it is true that Margaret Thatcher shouldn’t have started the sell off of council houses, even the stock of council housing in the 80s couldn’t have housed a fraction of the demand for social housing at the moment.

    While we are in the EU we can’t control our borders, lets put a stop to MASS immigration until we have caught up on housing who is already here and also provided the necessary health care and schools for them.

    Vote UKIP

  • Martin Ribadeneira

    You do realize that if the UK does and up leaving the EU it is almost certain that it will remain a part of the EEA much like Norway and Iceland, and as such will have little to no control over immigration from the rest of the EU. Rather, it will be a part of a trade bloc without any say in its shaping or future. It is essential that the UK remains a part of the EU in order for it to have a say in how it is governed and run. I agree that there needs to be changes, but the idea of leaving the EU is ridiculous.

  • greggf

    “….and as such will have little to no control over immigration from the rest of the EU.”

    What control does the UK exercise now over EU migration Martin?

  • greggf

    David Hayes’ essay is indeed a good read.

    Euro-scepticism may prove to be the part of incremental change that has probably avoided, maybe evaded, involving the UK in a decision about a Federal superstate.

    The only deeper union in the works is the Fiscal Union of eurozone members, and to join that the UK would have to dump the £ and join the €. We have already decided against that.
    As both the EU and FU evolve “muddling through” seems best suited.
    Whether a referendum materializes remains to be seen, it may prove superfluous.

  • Stupidity Exterminator

    What control?

    You should ask Spanish Emigration Authority the same question with regards to approximately 750,000 Brits residing in Spain in comparison to, for example, 850,000 A8 citizens currently living in the UK (eurostat).

    Educate yourself before you open your mouth – just a little suggestion. That’s the whole beauty of the “four freedoms” and the acquis communautaire. Educate yourself because you just embarrassed yourself…

  • greggf

    You might want to change your appellation Stupid, because it shortens conveniently to …well voila!
    Oh, and please read the reference posts before making assumptions.

  • Stupidity Exterminator

    I’ve already said: educate yourself. Done

  • greggf

    I note your limited experience with disqus Stupid, which might explain your limited powers of comprehension. Because the point at issue on the earlier posts is not the “four freedoms” but control of them, in particular the one about freedom of movement.
    No doubt your examples of Spain and A8 migrants in the UK are well aware of how these controls vary widely and which, since I live in France, I can verify.

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