The Europeans are promising "no deal" with the upcoming EU summit which only has one item on the agenda:† Britain's demand for EU reform.
Speaking to reporters at the Council building in Brussels, Mr Tusk, the president of the European council, said parts of the British demands seemed "unacceptable".So what are those unacceptable demands?
"The consultations I have led with all member states shows goodwill of all the parties involved, but it doesn't change the fact that some parts of the British proposal seem unacceptable," he said.
In November, PM Cameron sent a letter to Donald Tusk, the "President of Europe" listing four key demand areas: currencies, competitiveness, sovereignty, and immigration. These are the other they appear in the letter. They also happen, by fun coincidence, to (roughly) also be in increasing order of opposition from the rest of the European Union.
Their bit about economic governance is fairly straightforward. The key lines that the UK has an uphill battle for is:
Any changes the Eurozone decides to make, such as the creation of a banking union, must be voluntary for non-Euro countries, never compulsory.But then, as we noted, that's the easy part of this whole deal.
Taxpayers in non-Euro countries should never be financially liable for operations to support the Eurozone as a currency.
To be fair, the competitiveness angle is probably something that there will be wide support for as well. The trade deals section may ruffle a few protectionist feathers (and, as a fair bit of insult, doesn't mention the EU's free trade deal with Canada) and I'm not sure how much European countries are game to cut regulation and unencumber businesses. But they should be able to finangle that one.
On the matter of sovereignty the Brits are certainly in a position to get Europe's gander up. Cameron starts off with an absolute bombshell.
First, I want to end Britain's obligation to work towards an "ever closer union" as set out in the Treaty. It is very important to make clear that this commitment will no longer apply to the United Kingdom. I want to do this in a formal, legally-binding and irreversible way.Now it's no secret that Europe has been hungrily pining to get the United Kingdom into the European Union full-force (they specifically still grit their teeth that the UK got a permanent Euro opt-out in Protocol 15), and I'm sure they had hoped that this was a back-door process to bring the UK inexorably closer. Cameron's explosive declaration that England is already more European than it should be is going to go over like a lead zeppelin. Also, how well do you think this will play in Brussels?
Second,There's a reason that "new world order / one world government" conspiracy theories have so much traction, and that's because central governments always like consolidating rather than dispersing power. The European Union is no exception, indeed it's almost the rule that proves the rule. (It doesn't help, either, that Britain's aim for "competitiveness" is similarly at odds with the statist desires of the elite in Brussels). Cameron finishes this section off with a play for the national security card to try and soothe the savage statist beast, but it's clear this is so much window dressing.
while the European Parliament plays an important role, I want to enhance the role of national parliaments, by proposing a new arrangement where groups of national parliaments, acting together, can stop unwanted legislative proposals. The precise threshold of national parliaments required will be a matter for the negotiation.
Third, I want to see the EU' s commitments to subsidiarity fully implemented, with clear proposals to achieve that. As the Dutch have said, the ambition should be "Europe where necessary, national where possible".
Which segues, of course, into the final item, the most contentious item, the one that has brother set against brother, elite vs proletariat‡, whites against nonwhites, believers in sovereignty versus believers in a higher power§...I'm talking, of course, about naming rights over wine producing regions.
No of course I'm kidding. The real contentious issue is, as always: immigration.
We need to ensure that when new countries are admitted to the EU in the future, free movement will not apply to those new members until their economies have converged much more closely with existing Member States.There's a lot in there (and I didn't include the preamble and the postamble to the meat and potatoes bits) and it doesn't even explicitly mention that EU immigration issue on everybody's mind: the "Syrian" "refugee" crisis. There are little hints here and there ("addressing ECJ judgments that have widened the scope of free movement", etc) but Cameron is mainly looking at migration mitigation that looks beyond just the headlines. You could take the argument that he's rationally trying to solve a temporary problem while also fixing a long-term structural issue, you could take the argument that he's an evil anti-Muslim conservative who's couching his racism and xenophobia in this benign language of stopping abuse, or you could take the (far more likely argument) that he's pretending to be tough on the fake Syrian refugees but in reality just doing some little bureaucratic nonsense so that he can claim that unlike the UKIP he actually can achieve results in negotiations.
We also need to crack down on the abuse of free movement, an issue on which I have found wide support in my discussions with colleagues. This includes tougher and longer re-entry bans for fraudsters and people who collude in sham marriages. It means addressing the fact that it is easier for an EU citizen to bring a non-EU spouse to Britain than it is for a British citizen to do the same. It means stronger powers to deport criminals and stop them coming back, as well as preventing entry in the first place. And it means addressing ECJ judgments that have widened the scope of free movement in a way that has made it more difficult to tackle this kind of abuse.
But we need to go further to reduce the numbers coming here. As I have said previously, we can reduce the flow of people coming from within the EU by reducing the draw that our welfare system can exert across Europe. So we have proposed that people coming to Britain from the EU must live here and contribute for four years before they qualify for in-work benefits or social housing. And that we should end the practice of sending child benefit overseas.
Regardless of his reasons though, they remain sticking points that threaten to make the entire summit basically useless. There's the other theory about this, too: it's a poison pill, designed specifically to put Europe in a hard place: grant Britain their wishes, or else risk a negative public backlash in the upcoming EU Referendum, which by force of law will now take place between today and December 2017. By bringing his trump card into play, Cameron is now challenging Europe to play ball or go home. Of particular note is the bit about no welfare benefits for four years in England. Privately officials have said that Cameron may be applying them to British workers as well, which would end claims of discrimination and conveniently also cause young Brits to turn against the blind import of migrants to begin with. After all, if migrants didn't abuse the welfare system they wouldn't have had to close it down for everyone. This isn't even the "extremist" position you might think: poor Jeremy Corbyn had to play to his social justice warrior base by publicly denouncing his own party's position: Labour wants the same restrictions as Cameron but for only two years.
What we're seeing here is the end of the European Union as we know it. Either they abide by the British demands and become a loose confederation of independent nations again, or England is on it's way out. Pretty good for a UKIP party that the media despises and has never made a big jump in the polls. Albertan separatists should take note.
† Which technically, as Bernard Woolley would say if he was here, makes it an agendum.
‡ [Google isn't cooperating on all Third Edge of the Sword webpages, but I believe this may be the first time Feynman and Coulter's Love Child has ever used the word "proletariat" on this site. -ed]
§ "Higher power" in this case could mean God (for the pro-immigration churches) or the great god of globalism and/or "anti-colonialism" as the case may be