Saturday, 24 November 2012

Better Off Out?

As time goes on, it seems more and more likely that Britain will either leave the EU and seek free-trade terms, or be part of an outer tier of countries that are not part of a Federal European core.

Many are sceptical that Cameron really wants to either leave the EU (not the preferred option) or be part of it, on substantially different terms. They buy the idea that any Euro scepticism is merely a front and that when push comes to shove he will bow-down and comply with further integration.

I disagree and I think this clip illustrates much more clearly where Dave is on this:

In this speech DC has chosen to attack not just the spending of the EU but it's structure. He talked about overpaid administration costs and the EU needing to 'live in the real world'.

And he chose to point out/remind us that the UK, and a small group of other countries, are net-contributors to the EU. In other words, we pay in more than we receive.

To my mind, this is the central question about the EU and will be the central calculation that people will make when they vote in any EU referendum.

The central over-riding question is actually quite simple, 'Is it worth it?'

Politicians, mainly from the left-of-centre, have been telling us for years that leaving the EU is not an option because so many jobs in our country depend on trade with the EU. The assumption here is that if we left the EU, we would not trade with the EU - really not a very realistic assumption yet one which has motivated some to take a pro-EU stance and others, who realise it is a flaky basis upon which to take a position, to express a desire for 'wider debate on the issue' - i.e. they need more info before they can decide.

Headlines last week have told us that 56% of people in the UK would vote to leave the EU see here.
But look a little closer and you will see (see graph in linked story here) that only 34% of people say they would definitely vote to leave the EU. The other 22% (i.e. 56-34=22) say they 'probably' would and there are another 14% who don't know.

Looking at the poll in a different way, you can conclude that actually 55% are not definitely decided either way or really don't know.

Why is this relevant?

Well. If you can cast aside scepticism for a while and accept that Dave really does want a better deal for Britain, then just consider what will strengthen his negotiating position. If Dave tries to negotiate a new deal with the EU with a public that are largely undecided then the EU need not take his demands too seriously. They know that if a referendum were called, they can simply pump huge funding at the 'Stay in the EU' campaign, as they did with the Irish Referendums until they finally got their way, and swing the vote.

But the 'harder' the opposition to the EU becomes, the stronger Dave's negotiating position becomes. The EU doesn't want to lose the UK. It's not simply that we are a huge net contributor. Imagine just how much the sense of the inevitable continuation of the 'European Project' would be affected by the departure of the UK - the edifice would be demonstrably crumbling.

So that I think is why Dave is driving straight to the heart of the argument. In order to harden up anti-EU sentiment and bolster his negotiating position, he is driving straight at the heart of the 'value' argument by starting to illuminate the central question and provide an answer.

Dave is making it plain that the simple answer to the question 'Do we get more from the EU than we put in?' is simply no. We are a net-contributor. Not a net-beneficiary.

On the current terms, are we therefore 'Better Off Out?" Quite clearly the answer is yes and the more the polls reflect this, the better position that Dave will be in to change the terms and therefore redefine the argument..


Post a Comment