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Cameron’s Negotiations: Lines in the sand and smokescreens

, by Milo Barnett

David Cameron ever since his election victory back in May has been touring around European leaders trying to influence them to help in a potential British negotiation with Europe. This is more a PR stunt than hard crafting diplomacy. Stories that have appeared in the British press about his tour have focused on Cameron himself and the photo-shoots rather than any concrete deals or potential changes. That is Cameron’s aim, he wants to wrap himself in the Union Jack for the press at the risk of jeopardising Britain’s position within the European Union. Cameron’s promise of a referendum was done for the same reason, so his actions continue on a long term trend.


So what does Cameron expect to get out of his negotiations? Well, simply, nothing. He knows that Europe will not be foolhardy enough to treat Britain as the problem child again and with other issues on the horizon they are not going to indulge him and allow him and Britain to receive all the benefits and none of the costs of being a part of the European community. Cameron simply doesn’t have any terms and conditions for staying in the union. He wants something he can sell to the public, so as to claim a victory for himself. He plans to win the referendum (which will most likely happen in May 2016) via a smokescreen rather than telling the British public the wonderful benefits of continued European membership. Cameron will most likely get something to sell to the voters, probably a rebate of some kind, and this will be his great victory.

Yet this means that at the end of the day there is no great principle that David Cameron is trying to defend but rather he is only doing what will work best for him. Though he will be campaigning to remain in Europe it’s his promise that first dragged this issue up and could initially jeopardise the future of Britain and its place not just in Europe but the wider world.

Though I think that the referendum itself will succeed in Britain retaining its membership, we need to tell people why that should be rather than making it Britain vs. Europe or indeed scaremongering people into remaining. It must be a positive message. The only source of hope that I can see coming out of this is that it might settle the issue for a while, especially if it’s a comprehensive result. The referendum on Britain membership of the EEC back in 1975 settled the issue well till Maastricht and indeed it’s been on the periphery of the British political scene since then. The recent emergence of UKIP is more down to immigration than populist questions over sovereignty. Cameron’s negotiations therefore are about populist headlines rather than over issues and therefore he has no core principles that he is trying to defend. Rather he is in a state of constant flux. He is a politician motivated by party politics rather a core set of ideologies.

When the vote happens in May we are likely see a great divide within Britain between the two different camps and there is a strong risk that the issues in question will be ignored and rather than informing people - thanks to the referendum - the vote will simply be a vote on the current Conservative government. Cameron as Prime Minister and head of the British government need to talk about issues that matter to people and how Europe can be a driving force to improve this nation, instead of simply using it as a setting for cheap point scoring and a scapegoat. It’s not surprising then that people are sceptical of Europe and the referendum thanks to the way Cameron has behaved and how he has twisted things to suit himself. Simply put, Cameron swanning about Europe has done nothing to keep Britain in Europe and everybody knows that the referendum is inevitable. It is just an attempt by Cameron to look prime ministerial and say he attempted to keep Britain in Europe. There are no grand values or principles Cameron plans to keep and it’s just lines in the sand for him. Due to Britain’s hesitation to become a proactive member of the European community we are seeing a creation of a two-tier Europe and as other nations work closer together, Britain drifts further and further apart. Cameron is allowing this to happen and I just hope that the upcoming referendum will solve more problems than it causes in terms of Britain membership of the EU.

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