Monday, 19 September 2011

Confusion In The Ranks

My first reaction, on reading a call by the Tory 1922 committee on a referendum on Europe in today's Telegraph, was one of world weary 'here we go again' boredom:
We're fed up with Europe, so give us a vote
It naturally smacks of; 'it's conference season so we need to shore up our Tory eurosceptic vote'. But on re-reading the article it appears also to reveal rampant confusion in Tory ranks on what to do with the 'EU question', a question that has been made more urgent by the Euro crisis.

Unlike other Tory eurosceptic claims Mark Pritchard - secretary of the 1922 committee - goes further than many of his Tory colleagues:
Those who suggest the Lisbon Treaty should be ripped up and replaced with a new EU constitution, or that the eurozone's move towards "fiscal union" provides a major opportunity for Britain to re-negotiate her relationship with Europe, are well-meaning; but these measures would only change things at the margins and do little to arrest the EU's democratic illegitimacy.
That passage in essence is an acknowledgement that re-negotiating our 'relationship' is a pointless exercise. Quite right too. However it's pretty strong stuff coming from a Tory - and it goes against the recent claims of the new 'growing group of Tory so-called Eurosceptics led by George EUstice:

Although Monday's meeting is open to all Conservatives, the initiative is being driven by MPs elected for the first time in 2010.

They are regarded as being more eurosceptic than their predecessors and keener to take back powers from Brussels, initially focusing or social and employment legislation, rather than just resisting further economic and political integration.

One of the group's leaders, George Eustice, David Cameron's former press secretary, said it would promote a "sensible discussion about how we can radically overhaul the EU and make it fit for purpose in the 21st Century".

Then, quite amazingly after ruling out "re-negotiating her relationship" Pritchard then contradicts himself quite blatantly (my emphasis):
That is why the Coalition should agree to a referendum on Europe asking whether Britain should be part of a political union or of the trade-only relationship we thought we had signed up to.

The referendum should be held next year, and a successful "No to political union" result would immediately strengthen the Prime Minister's negotiating hand in Brussels to commence serious and meaningful negotiations with our partners on Britain's new relationship. The process of returning political sovereignty to Westminster would then take place over the proceeding two years.
Er? Erm? Make your mind up. Then Pritchard argues that should this not work, as it won't, an in or out referendum must be put forward in 2015:
But, if Brussels refused to repatriate specified powers within a designated 24-month period, then a second referendum – this time an "in or out" vote – would be triggered in 2015 and held on the day of the next general election. This stepping-stone approach would give voters, the British Government and Brussels Eurocrats an action list and a timetable. Having been served notice by the British people, Brussels would need to act. If specified powers were not returned within the defined timetable,
Unwittingly or otherwise, Pritchard is actually advocating an 'in or out' referendum - an exit by timetable. His proposals of re-negotiation will fail, as he acknowledges, so the logical outcome by his reckoning, is a referendum ultimately on our membership - the "nuclear option".

Clearly mixed messages are now emanating from the Tory party as again Pritchard contradicts other so-called eurosceptic Tories;

Mr Eustice, a former UKIP election candidate and anti-euro campaigner, said "now was not the time to be calling for referendums".

A lack of strategy coherence born out of a desire to remain EU members but a desperate pretence otherwise. Increasingly they're looking like schizophrenics who keep forgetting to take their Fluphenazine medication.

And we know Pritchard is not serious, nor are many of his colleagues, about following through with the nuclear option (the only real bargaining chip the UK has in negotiations) and we know this because of one revealing line:
Brussels would have only themselves to blame if Britons voted to leave the EU.
See what he did there? He would blame someone else for our exit. If someone achieves something they genuinely strive for and believe in, they don't blame others, they would want to take the credit.

Update: Just seen this from the Telegraph's Will Heaven:

That's the trouble though, isn't it? The 1922 committee promises brave rebellion to the public, but in Parliament pro-Cameron, pro-Europe "realpolitik" is the order of the day.


  1. Mr Eustice is a Cornish MP who got in by the skin of his teeth. His constituency is going to be changed by 2015. Cornwall was the highest UKIP supporting area in the Euro Elections. He has got problems.......

  2. Nice article TBF, I've nicked the link to Will Heaven for my piece!

  3. Glad to hear it @Anon, not surprised about Cornwall and UKIP, no coincidence that most of the eurosceptic Lib Dems come from there.

    @WfW Nicking something else from my blog? Hmm may have to start invoicing you :-) Seriously no worries, thanks.

  4. Nothing will happen, it's all talk and posing for public show.
    A referendum? Could it be won, on an in or out question?
    Even if there was a vote for OUT, is there a politician/political party or movement - who would have the cojones to take us out?
    To upset the establishment?

    Upset, all the quangos and civil servants and councils up and down the country?

    You see, that is the real problem, not the EU per se but Britain's very own EU zealots - the Euro gravy train statists, then there are the corporate EU lovers big business, global industries and banks - there is too much vested interest in the EU tyranny - we cannot come out - they will not allow it.
    Can't you see, we do not live in a democracy where individual voices count - we are serfs, unless there is a mass movement of general disobedience - only then will they listen.
    Until the people show they really care about leaving the EU and en masse - it can't and definitely won't happen.

    Sitting in the pub yesterday, the talk wasn't about the imminent collapse of the euro, or the madness of windfarms and solar photo-voltaic cell subsidies, or even mass immigration. Oh no, it was just the usual drink addled crap, I thought to myself, what will it take to get you lot animated on the political reality of our membership of the EU?
    How can it be communicated just how much a burden and how it ruins and affects all their lives in the most basic way - in monetary terms!

    Forty years of bbc agitprop, bad schooling, political lies, chicanery and the soft soap of; "how the EU is good for you and for me" [but even better for the elites]".

    If you were to ask [or try to elicit any political debate - not a good idea in a pub really], some would offer in their fugged answer. Possibly, would be proffered about 'cuts' or tax [better].
    Yer see - the statists, councils and politicians, the EU propaganda sorcerers/spin meisters have got them all in their palms, by the 'short and curlies'.

    That's the problem, trying to awaken, better arouse a feeling, then stir the subconscious distrust of the EU and turn a spark, into a conflagration!


  5. Your link to the 2004 EURef article in interesting. In it Richard North suggests that Michael Howard was genuine in his desire for a renegotiation but simply did not understand the way the EU worked and could work to flow round difficulties. Howard is a lawyer and no one would doubt his intellectual abilities, few would have any hesitation of placing him amongst the brightest of the Tories. He couldn't see that his only bargaining chip was withdrawal and that it was likely his bluff would be called.

    It rather suggests that these murmurings from Pritchard and others aren't purely flannel to keep Eurosceptics on side. They really do believe that renegotiation and repatriation of powers is possible. If Howard was confused, it's no surprise that Pritchard is confused and confusing.

    I agree with Ravenscar's comment above. There are forces other than the HoC striving to keep us in the EU.

    The most likely way of getting out is for the EU to collapse in acrimony, which is looking far from an impossible dream. The task for Eurosceptics will then be to drive home the fact that the EU is over and prevent it being clung to.

    I don't see the faux-eurosceptic tendency in the Tory Party as an entirely bad thing as long as there are enough voices pointing out the nonsense of it prattling about renegotiation, especially while rejecting withdrawal.