David Cameron on EU Membership:
“We have the character of an island nation – independent, forthright, passionate in defence of our sovereignty.
We can no more change this British sensibility than we can drain the English Channel.
And because of this sensibility, we come to the European Union with a frame of mind that is more practical than emotional.
For us, the European Union is a means to an end – prosperity, stability, the anchor of freedom and democracy both within Europe and beyond her shores – not an end in itself.
We insistently ask: How? Why? To what end?”
Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out of the European Union and risk disaster for their country! Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech on January 23rd is another example of the foolishness that has overtaken the Tory Party in Britain as it has the Republican Party here in the U.S. They are both backward looking and narrow in their perspective. They also share a fear of change and aversion to global engagement and serious problem solving. Their myopic ideology trumps any sense of realty and analysis.
At its heart, Cameron’s call for an “in or out” vote on membership in the EU, which was already voted on in the 1970s and reaffirmed by Parliament vote several times, gives fuel to his most extreme euro-skeptics and places the UK in the worst position for real influence with its other EU partner leaders and nations.
Cameron’s key statement was:
Looking at essential renegotiations of the fundamental documents of the EU, Cameron said vis a vis a new Treaty, “so I add my voice to those who are already calling for this. My strong preference is to enact these changes for the entire EU, not just for Britain. But if there is no appetite for a new Treaty for us all then of course Britain should be ready to address the changes we need in a negotiation with our European partners.
The next Conservative Manifesto in 2015 will ask for a mandate from the British people for a Conservative Government to negotiate a new settlement with our European partners in the next Parliament. It will be a relationship with the Single Market at its heart.
And when we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice. To stay in the EU on these new terms; or come out altogether. It will be an in-out referendum.
…And if a Conservative Government is elected we will introduce the enabling legislation immediately and pass it by the end of that year. And we will complete this negotiation and hold this referendum within the first half of the next parliament.
It is time for the British people to have their say. It is time to settle this European question in British politics. I say to the British people: this will be your decision.
And when that choice comes, you will have an important choice to make about our country’s destiny.
I understand the appeal of going it alone, of charting our own course. But it will be a decision we will have to take with cool heads. Proponents of both sides of the argument will need to avoid exaggerating their claims.
Of course Britain could make her own way in the world, outside the EU, if we chose to do so. So could any other Member State. But the question we will have to ask ourselves is this: is that the very best future for our country? We will have to weigh carefully where our true national interest lies.”
Indeed! As others have noted, there is no need for such a referendum, nor is there a need to change the basic elements of the UK-EU relationship. Furthermore, Cameron himself noted that there will be a cost of withdrawal from the EU, but he thinks such an act will not be a “withdrawal” from Europe. In that he is very wrong. In addition, he thinks there would be no damage to Britain’s “special” relations with the United States, a view that is not shared by the American government, as noted in the comments by Assistant Secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs Philip H. Gordon (cited in the Full Text Documents blog page). He ignores a key element that has been a lynch pin to British influence for decades; namely, the special relationship with the U.S. tested in two world wars, the building of NATO, the integration of Europe to ensure peace, and playing the key role in the EU of providing a global and outward looking perspective for continental Europeans.
Any careful look at the massive existing sinews of connection, trade, financial markets, cultural heritage, education, and employment would show that cutting those ties with the EU would be catastrophic in every sense for Britain and hurtful for the future prosperity and peace of Europe. With a possible Atlantic wide free trade area being developed it would make even less sense for Britain to cut its ties with that larger effort.
Let’s be frank. Looking beyond Cameron and the Tory “Tea Party” stupidities, Europe also needs Britain and its many virtues brought to the table when its governance, experience, and leaders are at their best.
Out of the EU, Britain would indeed be the “odd man out,” capitulating to its worst instincts and growing ever more backwards in modernity, growth, and influence.
Cameron and, more importantly, the British public, will have to decide whether they will be an integral part of Europe, whether they wish to abandon their decades long trade advantages within the EU and its promise of long-term prosperity and cooperation, or stand alone, isolated from that great European project, and also be less influential and involved in the great decisions that the U.S. and the European Union will be acting on to address the pressing issues of the age.
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