With sincere apologies for the delay in delivering this... lots happening away from the blog.
In part 2 we explored David Cameron's plans to introduce measures to assert the
sovereignty of the UK parliament, and create a Constitutional Court with the aim of overruling EU law. In the piece we made a crucial statement of fact...
Anyone trying to argue that Britain can remain in the EU and that
Parliament can be sovereign, or that a new Constitutional Court can bat
away EU laws, would be lying. I'm not saying they would be exaggerating
or overstating the position. I'm saying it is not true. At all.
To sum up then, in part 1 we have made the case that Cameron's EU-UK deal, currently being theatrically hawked around the member states by Donald Tusk for their approval, is an empty, meaningless sham that gives no power back to Britain. And in part 2 we have established that Cameron's promise to bolster it with some kind of Parliamentary sovereignty act and a Constitutional Court is a cruel and cynical deception. So what do we think Cameron's game really is?
Answer: We believe Cameron is treading water and playing for time, in the hope that the EU re-focuses its attention on plans for a two tier EU - creating a status known as Associate or Affiliate Membership - and begins to firm up proposals for the necessary treaty that enables the Eurozone countries to press ahead with integration in support of their common currency.
Such a treaty is to be designed in a way that prevents the non Eurozone countries from holding back that integration. For Cameron, it also provides the happy benefit of giving the impression the UK will be going no further down the path to ever closer union. It would give him the opportunity to declare he has won a massive victory and opted Britain out of more integration.
Since before the Five Presidents' Report, the need for a form of Associate Membership (AM) has been acknowledged and accepted. We've mentioned it on this blog before while highlighting the people who are supposedly eurosceptic, but hanker after it. The problem for Cameron is that he had hoped he could point to AM in time for the referendum. But there hasn't been sufficient progress, so he is trying to play for time until there is something more substantive to declare as a major reform.
As Cameron has pledged to hold the referendum by the end of next year time is running out. The EU knows AM is a pressing need, but it is very patient in its approach and its timeline won't take account of what Cameron wants. That's why we have seen the sham deal and the naked deception of Parliamentary sovereignty come to the fore as disposable placeholders.
Associate Membership will come. It's just a matter of time and the EU has plenty of that. It's taken over 40 years to get the member states as integrated as they are. Hell, it's taken more than two years just to get some kind of imaginary concession about Britain being able to adjust in-work benefits for migrants, even though the provision already existed in the EEA agreement as an existing safeguard measure set out in Articles 112-3. The EU is in no big rush. Cameron is out on a limb, with only the inherent advantage of status quo and voter ignorance in his favour when it comes to a vote.
Even if he holds and wins 'his' referendum in 2017, this all adds up to a badly mismanaged piece of politics by Cameron. 2013 saw him panic because of a combination of large Labour poll lead and consistent rump of support for Ukip, leading to his Bloomberg speech. Promises spilled forth in quantity, but just about everything has been quietly dropped from his list, leaving a trivial basket of 'demands', most of which could already be implemented as they are catered for in the existing treaties.
Cameron's attempts to bully and silence members of the government who believe in Brexit have been typically arrogant and ham fisted. The lies he has told the public so far have been disgraceful, and those that haven't already been pulled to pieces will be exposed over time, undermining trust in the Conservatives. The waste of time and money pushing legislation that cannot assert primacy over the EU, and the vast expense of his constitutional white elephant which will be unable to overturn decisions from the ECJ, will be recognised as such and there will be a reckoning with the voters.
My promised second prediction is that once the referendum is out of the way, the men in grey suits at Conservative Central Office and the wealthy influencers behind the scenes we never see or hear about, will pull the plug on Cameron. I expect that he will step down before the end of his second term and a new leader will become Prime Minister and lead the party into the next election. Who might that be?
Well, my money is on someone who has shown themselves to be ruthless and ambitious in equal measure. Someone who has quietly assumed high office without fuss and is rarely considered as a heavyweight. A man who has backed Cameron loyally, lied relentlessly in the pursuit of putting the party before all else, and who possesses a smooth, oily arrogance and has the look and tone of voice that always seems to win over the party. Someone will enough smarts to see off George Osborne. That man is Philip Hammond. Watch ascent unfold.
Incidentally, William Hill and Paddy Power both have him at 25/1, so a £5 bet will return £130. And no, I don't require a cut of your winnings :)