Brexit: David Cameron needs to convince Britain, not the EU

Written by Denis MacShane on 16 October 2015

British PM needs to make the case against Brexit in Birmingham and Bristol, not in Brussels, says Denis MacShane.

So now we know that British Prime Minister David Cameron will be sending a list of demands to Brussels so that the UK’s 27 other partners have a sense of what he wants in these legendary “renegotiations” that are meant to so alter Britain’s relationship with Europe.

In turn this is meant to ensure that the forthcoming referendum will be easily won by the REMAIN campaign as UKIP and Tory Eurosceptics and the off-shore owned Europhobe British papers sail off into the sunset.


I remain opposed to any increase in unemployment so I don’t want to see my old friend, Nigel Farage, lose his job so I will be voting enthusiastically to stay in Europe when the plebiscite takes place in the hope of guaranteeing Nigel his income and the £2m in expenses which he boasted in 2009 he had been able to claim from the European Parliament.

Klaus Welle, the dedicated German Secretary General of the European Parliament, told a dinner in London that if the Brexit vote happens, all the British MEPs would have to leave the Parliament.

For UKIP and Tory Eurosceptic MPs that may be a price worth paying although it seems hard on all the other British MEPs who work jolly hard on behalf of their country in both Strasbourg and Brussels.

Actually, the chances of unemployment taking off seriously if the UK leaves the EU cannot be discounted.

One of the big claims of the Brexit campaigns (the plural is deliberate as there do seem to be quite a lot of anti-Europeans outfits claiming to be the one, true authentic representatives of the Brexit passions in the nation) is that there will be no difference to trade, investment, or jobs after an EU exit.

If anything, they argue, a post-EU Britain will soar to become a new fusion of Singapore and Silicon Valley as the boys in Brussels can no longer tell us what to do.

Dream on. Britain, or perhaps more accurately England as Brexit will be re-ignite Scottish separatist passions, will remain what we are and have been for decades if not centuries namely a deeply conservative nation, full of traditions (many of them terrific), slow to change and adapt and quite capable of being stuck-in-the-mud.

India is not going to lift its 300-500 per cent tariff on Scotch whisky just became we are outside the EU. France takes 50 per cent of all lamb exports from the UK because unlike the United States which still bans the import of British beef, no EU country can impose protectionist measures against British agricultural products.

Outside the EU, stand by for the sheep and lamb farmers of France to find all sort of reasons why their produce should be preferred over le mouton anglais if sheep like we follow the Nigels (Farage and Lawson) into their isolationism.

Throwing around figures on the numbers of jobs in some of the 'apocalypse tomorrow' studies on leaving the EU are frankly silly. We just do not know.

What is certain is all the wonderful Asian car-makers who have saved the UK motor industry from the sheer incompetences of the era when it was in British hands (confession: I once owned a Morris Marina) will scratch their heads as British ministers and officials will no longer be present in Brussels when all the regulations about emissions, safety, petrol and diesel standards, or what metals can be used in exhaust and engine production are decided.

Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Tata (Jaguar and Land Rover) will be passive recipients of norms and rules from Brussels with no UK input.

Might some of them be tempted to off-shore across the Channel when the next big investment is decided in India or Japan? Especially as the high pound (for the time being) cuts profits? We do not know but the big lie of the Brexit groupies is that Britain becomes master of its own destiny outside the EU.

Go ask the Norwegians and Swiss who have to accept every EU regulation including taking in many more EU citizens as workers under free movement if in turn, Swiss and Norwegian firms want full unfettered access to Europe.

I look forward to the negotiations over BAP - British Agricultural Policy - when we quit the CAP. Good luck to the years of rows between different bits of the farming community, the Greens, anti-GMO campaigns, animal cruelty lobbies, opponents of livestock exports and so on. Mon Dieu, will Brexit mean a ban on foie gras?

It would be good if the two big lies could be knocked down by the BBC, which is now the official platform for Nigel Farage, as it is against the BBC Charter if the UKIP leader does not appear once a week on Question Time, Newsnight, Today or Any Questions.

Lie Number one is that the 75 per cent per of UK laws are made in Brussels. Sorry, but the House of Commons library researches this again and again and can never find more than seven-eight per cent of primary UK legislation that originates in the EU.

Then there is the lie that Europe takes all our money. Sorry, but the total EU budget cannot exceed 1 (one for those who need is spelled out in letters) per cent of Europe’s GDP. Of that one per cent 85 per cent comes back to nations as agricultural and regional infrastructure spending. So the EU itself spend one-sixth of 1 per cent of the continents entire income.

Can the British broadcasters John Humphries or David Dimbleby remind their viewers and listeners of that fact? I thought not.

So might the Prime Minister? Since he was elected in 2001, David Cameron has faithfully regurgitated every anti-EU trope of his Oxford generation who entered politics just as their goddess, Margaret Thatcher, turned passionately and venomously against Europe after her ouster over a European issue 25 years ago.

Cameron’s best friend in Europe is the former Finnish conservative Prime Minister, Alexander Stubb, now Finland’s finance Minister. Stubb was taxed by the Eurosceptic presenter of the World at One on the money the UK pays to Europe.

He pointed out that, yes, like Finland, the UK (and many other nations) are net contributors even if Britain, uniquely, enjoy its rebate but then added “The EU is about peace, prosperity and security and for that there’s no price tag.”

When will David Cameron repeat Alexander Stubb’s words? When will any minister speak positively about the EU? So far the only high state figure to speak positive about European unity was the Queen at a dinner in Berlin in June. Can the prime minister and cabinet discover the confidence of their monarch that a united Europe is the best news Britain has had in centuries?

We are still waiting for a coherent, confident, comprehensive expression by the Prime Minister about why isolating the UK from Europe would be a disaster. He needs to talk to us, not Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande. He needs to make the case against Brexit in Birmingham and Bristol, not in Brussels.

He has waited 15 years to say anything positive about Europe and told his Conservative party conference that the EU was ‘too bossy and bureaucratic.’ How on earth does he expect British voters to vote for an outfit their own Prime Minister derides in such scornful terms?

He should bring Finland’s Alexander Stubb to make the case for Britain staying in Europe before it’s too late. It is here in Britain not in Brussels, that Britain’s future will be decided.

But the Prime Minister has not left the dressing room to go onto the field against the Brexit teams. He may be leaving it too late.



About the author

Denis MacShane is a former UK Europe Minister and author of Brexit: How Britain Will Leave Europe published by IB Tauris

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