I never tire of reading Fraser Nelson’s political analysis. Not because he’s my new editor at the Spectator and I feel I ought to suck up to him but because, like me, he’s right about everything. But he’s right about everything in a much clever and more insightful way than I am. Mostly I tend to wing it, whereas Fraser totally knows his stuff.
What he has to say in Spectator Coffee House about the Conservatives’ new non-policy on Europe is an essential read.
He starts off quite kindly towards Cameron. Nelson understands as well as anyone that Cameron WILL be our next prime minister and that, a bit like parents and schoolteachers are supposed to do with children, you can’t forever be telling him how rubbish he’s going to be. If you’re going to criticise, first you must say something nice. So Nelson does:
He is right not to promise what he calls a “made-up referendum”, that would accomplish nothing other then vent rage.
Semi-compliment over and done with, Nelson sticks in the knife. Cameron’s promise to renegotiate powers from Brussels is a nonsense, he explains.
What the new Tory package amounts to is a promise to ask the EU very nicely if it will consider handing back a few powers over employment and justice. The answer will be ‘no’. Saying that he might hold a referendum over a wider package of guarantees will carry no weight. By ignoring the Dutch and French ‘no’ votes the EU has shown that it cares not a jot what the little people think. It is a project of the elites, for the elites.
Given that the EU is guaranteed to crush all the Conservatives’ pathetically feeble attempts to claw back tiny bits and bobs of British sovereignty, what is the answer? There is, says Nelson, only one thing that will frighten the EU bullies – a referendum on whether Britain should remain in the EU at all.
The ‘in or out’ question is seen as an extreme position in Westminster, which shows just how out of touch our political class has become. Brussels’s own polling shows that less than a third of the British public consider our membership of the EU to be ‘a good thing’ — and this was last year when our net contribution to the EU was just £3.1 billion. Next year it will be £7.8 billion (due to the budget deal the would-be President Blair negotiated) and serious questions will be asked as to whether all these regulations are worth the money we pay for them. Recent EU research shows that just 37% think the benefits of EU membership outweigh the costs.
Perhaps some Kool-Aid drinkers out there will be able to tell me what wonderful benefits Britain will get from the EU mafia in return for that £7.8 billion protection money. Perhaps they’ll also be able to explain why, no really, Cameron’s policy announcement on Europe yesterday is as tough as tough can be and will eventually result in all sorts of powers being returned to Britain. The absolute right to decide on the size of the white margins on our postage stamps, maybe. Or the right of parents to chastise their kids lightly on the hand if they have stolen a car. Or the right of employers to sack any staff member found with his hand in till on more than 22 occasions.
Certainly I’m quite sure that whatever Cameron is planning, it will be – as Dan would no doubt say – the terrors of the earth.