So the referendum is on and battle lines are drawn….. within the Tory party! We can expect a vast level of drivel over the next few weeks.
For example, I was planning on doing a sweepstake to see how long before the “Vote Leave” group (who portray themselves as more intellectual less bigoted version of the UKIP raving loony brigade) would take to play the race card. Well it took them less than 24 hrs, with IDS claiming that being in the EU raises the risk of a Paris style attack on the UK. Clearly this was meant to imply “get out Europe before more darkies get in”.
However I would point out that the Europe is an overwhelmingly Christian continent and the vast bulk of migrants and visitors from the EU are Christian. Indeed the demographics of the UK have a larger proportion of Muslims than the EU. Furthermore the vast majority of Muslims are not linked to terrorism. As Peter Sutherland recently pointed out (in relation to the US), of the 780,000 Muslims taken in by the US since 9/11 only 3 have engaged in any form of terrorism (and one of them was white and the other two could have been stopped by harsher gun laws!).
So this raises the question did Cameron do enough. My view is he shouldn’t have bothered and the rest of the EU should have told him to feck off. Clearly against BS like the example above there is very little he can do to counter this and convince the morons who read tabloids. The leave campaign will be fought with half baked myths and outright lies and its very difficult to win a fight against an opponent who constantly talks bollix.
Much of his “reforms” amounted to statements of the blindingly obvious, e.g. that the UK would not be forced to join the Euro (ya! Sure that was always a risk! And in any event there would have to be a referendum, same as there was in every other country that joined the Euro). Or that UK would be forced to accept further EU integration (all EU treaties are passed by unanimous agreement of all member states, and most hold referendums internally to endorse such measures, this was never a risk!).
Only someone who went through EU treaties with a copy of the Daily Mail in hand would believe any of these measures were actually necessary. I mean while he was at it, why didn’t he secure an assurance that all pensioners won’t be required by Brussels to buy an EU approved dildo or butt plug and have them permanently inserted where the sun don’t shine. I mean what if they EU brings in a rule requiring that, what protection do we have?
Jokes aside, the one substantial reform was on benefits. And I would still question whether this is legal as it stinks of discrimination. Its entirely possible it will fall foul of the European or UK courts at some point in the future. And what’s to stop other EU states applying reverse discrimination to UK citizens, such as pensioners in Spain? My guess is, as part of the deal this is in the pipeline, on condition that the other EU states wait to spring that surprise after the referendum.
Also there’s the matter of implementing it. The UK benefit’s IT system is already struggling to cope with the universal credit system, this additional complication will make matters worse and it will inevitably cost money. Indeed, it is reasonable to assume it will cost more money to implement these changes than will be saved by denying a tiny number of migrants some benefits. My guess is that the first labour or lib dem government in power will quickly drop these measures for simple reasons of cost efficiency.
The dangers of Appeasement
Let us be clear, this was not a “renegotiation” of the UK’s EU membership, it was a hostage taking. In which Cameron walked into Brussels and threatened to cut his own throat unless they gave him what he wanted. Amusing as it would be to let him go ahead and do this, the EU has bigger fish to right now (Putin, Syria, Greece, a possible lunatic tea party nut in the white house)…and he might get blood on the carpet and then they’d need to have an argument about who was going to clean up the mess.
However this act of appeasement was very dangerous, as history tells us that appeasement of an aggressor simply makes them come back for more. Already the no camp is using this to argue that they’ll get an even better deal out of Brussels if they vote to leave. Of course they won’t, the EU will have every incentive to hold the UK’s feet to the flames, as the Greeks found out a few months back. And further along the line, its likely other euroskeptic parties in other countries will also now demand a “renegotiation”, resulting in changes to the EU that the UK doesn’t want.
So all in all, I’d say this was a massive mistake by the EU and for Cameron. His government has blundered from one self inflicted crisis to the next and so far he’s been lucky. I wonder if his luck is about to run out, as there is every chance that this referendum could break the Tory party. And the blame for that will lie squarely with him.
Boris Johnson’s stage managed defection to the no camp was clearly based more on his ambitions to become PM than his political leanings. If the country vote’s to leave Cameron’s goose is likely to be cooked and with his economic plans in tatters I suspect Osborne will throw his toys out the pram and return to his coffin to regenerate. However, as Johnson’s own father pointed out, it could well be a career ending decision if the Tory party splits and he ends up head of some sort of UKIP lite party (like UKIP but with 25% less racism!).
Also one has to ask, would it actually be a good idea to be PM in the event of Brexit? As recent drops in the value of Sterling should foretell, there will be an expensive post-Brexit economic correction, probably a recession and whoever is PM will likely get the blame, as it will be all to obvious that it was the “leave” campaign who was responsible. Scotland will likely become independent (bringing the UK to an end) and hence his reign as PM is likely to be short and painful, as come the next election labour will likely win (even if labour hasn’t replaced Corybn with someone like Benn or Burnham they still have a chance in such circumstances).
The fact remains Cameron should never have agreed to this referendum, which was purely an exercise in solving an internal battle within the Tory party, which could have been solved much more easily by telling them all to stop reading the tabloids.