the last few years the Tories have been trying to claim that the recession is over, but this hasnt quite jelled with the reality for most people. Theyve done this by pointing to economic figures which show the economy growing and the GDP going up. Critics however have suggested that this is an example of ENRON-esque accounting. For example, theyve begun to include such activities as prostitution, drugs and illegal gambling in the UK GDP figures.
Of course inevitably the Eurocrats in Brussels heard about this apparent rise in the UKs GDP and as a result included it in the annual review of the rates different states pay for membership of the EU. And unsurprisingly theyve decided that the UK needs to pay more. This has of course set the Daily Mail UKIP mob off in a mouth foaming tizzy.
This has of course put Cameron in a bit of a pickle, as with a by-election underway and a general election in a few months he has to look tough by refusing to pay in order to placate the UKIP bigot brigade. But of course if he doesnt pay, the chances of him getting any concessions out of his EU partners is somewhere between slim and nil.
The nature of how this information found its way to the press (a leak) has sent the conspiracy theory machine rolling. Some regard it as a shot across the Tory bow by the EU commission. Essentially warning Britain that loose talk about leaving will cost the country dearly. The hope of the Euro federalists is that this will split the Tory vote, leaving Miliband to take over. Others argue that the EU is conspiring with Cameron to allow him to look tough on Europe in the run up to elections.
My take on this, having had dealings with the EU commission on research projects, is that I would doubt any of the conspiracy theories. The fact is the EU commission just isnt imaginative enough to come up with anything like these conspiracies. What this incident also proves is that the commission is somewhat inflexible.
And we have the likes of Nigel Farage and other eurosceptics to thank for it. Any time the EU has shown any sort of flexibility or bent its own rules, eurosceptic MEPs have had a field day over it. So as a consequence the EU has practically bred an entire generation of eurocrats who are about as flexible as the old man of Hoy.
Certainly the message to be taken away from this is that if the UK wants to see changes in how the EU operates, this will only happen if the UK acts in an appropriate way, e.g. meeting with potential allies in the EU, establishing common ground, proposing workable compromises. Unilateral action, making Daily Mail friendly but general undiplomatic speeches and proposing policies that are clearly unworkable and unenforceable will just annoy the rest of Europe and result in the UK being ignored…then pretty much told to piss off! Any hope that the EU will cut Cameron some slack just to keep the UK in the EU, is wishful thinking.
And Farages entire strategy of leaving the EU hinges on him getting a free trade agreement from them, which there is no guarantee he will get. Much like how the SNPs bid for independence fell apart as it hinged on them getting agreements (over currency sharing and immediate EU entry) which its clear they werent going to get, UKIPs entire policy is based on fantasy. As Ive said before, Britains biggest problem with the EU is the failings of current British diplomacy.