October 21, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith
Any chance that there is a by-election on soon? Why else would David Cameron spend today shaking his fist at the outgoing EU President Jose Manuel Barroso in a style eerily similar to that of Nigel Farage. Just in case people wavering between UKIP and the Conservatives in that by-election didn’t notice, Cameron issued his fair share of undeliverable policies and promises.
Barroso, for his part, simply pointed out that the favoured option that Downing Street keep talking about – a yearly quota system of migrants from the EU, would be a clear breach of the UK’s obligations under the EU Treaty. Cameron has also talked at the weekend about limiting the amount of National Insurance numbers available to low-skilled migrants. Barroso was able to calmly point out again that under the EU Treaty, there is no provision for any ‘arbitrary cap’ on immigration from EU countries.
Then there is the criteria that Cameron has floated of restricting the free movement of immigrants from new EU countries until they have reached a certain GDP. This, Barroso said, would create first-class and second-class citizens within the EU, which is not the point of the EU. So it is not going to happen either.
Cameron of course has retorted that Barroso is not his boss. “I’m very clear about who I answer to, and it is the British people.”
Actually, as long as Britain remains a part of the EU, the Prime Minister has to take orders from Brussels on issues such as the free movement of European workers.
Cameron answers this one by saying that he will ‘renegotiate’ this particular relationship. But he ‘forgets’, like Alex Salmond ‘forgot’ when it came to currency, that there are two sides to a negotiation. Cameron will not just be able to say what he wants and get it, and the EU will almost definitely not be able to grant the UK favoured or different status without granting other countries that status too.
So Cameron, who has promised a referendum in 2017 if the Tories are re-elected (most likely only if they get a majority, which is his major get out clause), is going to go into this renegotiation with nothing to give in return, apart from to threaten withdrawal. Withdrawal, as Barroso said yesterday, would reduce the UK’s status within the world economically and politically, and the EU will know that. So Cameron will be left trying to work out with expert pollsters what types of minor concessions that the EU can afford to give would be enough to win the referendum, because Cameron will most ip likely not want to leave.
Cameron has got himself into a mess. In Rochester, it could be that UKIP will get to clear up. Which is why he is digging himself deeper in. It is tough to watch.