Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Britain Would Be a Miserable Place If We Were outside the EU; Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Britain Would Be a Miserable Place If We Were outside the EU; Columnist

Article excerpt

IT is a risky business to predict what will happen in 2013, and you have probably had enough of it from others. I would rather issue a call for our political leaders to show some real leadership and perhaps political courage on an issue of real importance to our country, which is our relationship with Europe.

It is no good trying to make statements which will go along with what you think popular opinion is, or will appease certain sections of your party, and hope you can avoid making a decision and get away with it, at least until the next election. You have got to have a clear view. Then perhaps the electorate will follow you, rather than the other way round which seems to be happening at the moment, at least with the prime minister. I think his beliefs at the moment, when you can fathom them out, are that Britain should have a looser relationship with Europe. This is a respectable position. It is another question as to whether it is attainable, but I'll return to what I think is possible later. The trouble is that he doesn't articulate it very well. Instead, all his public pronouncements are either attacks on Europe, phrases such as Europe is "picking the pockets" of people in England, or else supposed "triumphs over the Europeans" when he exercised the veto last year on the fiscal pact. The eurozone countries then ignored him and made an agreement among themselves.

His gesture, aimed purely at his own backbenchers and the Press at home, achieved nothing, but simply annoyed the other EU countries.

Cameron's pronouncements on Europe seem less about what is good for Britain but more about appeasing a minority of his MPs and trying to stop electors voting for UKIP.

The problems with this strategy are twofold. Firstly the people he is aiming at will not be appeased.

They sincerely believe Britain should leave the EU, and they will go on being a nuisance until they achieve that end. The other result is that the rest of the EU will become more and more fed up with Cameron's negative attitude and be even less likely than before to grant the concessions he seeks. …

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