There was sense in much of what David Cameron said on Wednesday about the need for reform in the European Union.
Although senior European politicians have made it clear that “cherry picking” – by the UK or any other member state – is not on the cards, there is scope for serious negotiation on important structural and political elements as the EU emerges from the eurozone crisis.
What is baffling is why the Prime Minister might believe that the announcement of an “in-out” referendum will strengthen his hand in trying to achieve these reforms.
Theodore Roosevelt’s key to successful diplomacy was to speak softly, and carry a big stick. For Europeans tired of the UK’s intransigence, the threat of a British exit is unlikely to constitute much more than a thin twig. The UK needs the EU far more than the EU needs the UK.
In fact, the Prime Minister has committed us to an outrageous gamble, for reasons which are more concerned with his own and his party’s future than the economic and political well-being of the United Kingdom.
European Movement in Scotland
David Cameron’s promise of an EU referendum is Westminster hypocrisy at its very worst.
Cameron claimed that the independence debate was too drawn-out – now he wants a four-year wait for a vote on the EU.
He claimed that the independence referendum would create uncertainty – now he wants to keep businesses in flux for a further four years or more. He claimed that independence would jeopardise Scotland’s EU membership – now he wants to push Scotland closer to the exit.
The independence referendum now takes on even greater significance. A No vote will lock Scotland into an increasingly insular, isolated Britain on the margins of Europe and at the mercy of Ukip-fuelled hysteria.
The Union offers only a deeply uncertain, impotent future. The alternative – an independent, internationalist Scotland with her own seat at the top table and her own voice in the world – is attainable with a Yes vote in 2014.
Yesterday, Mr Cameron proved that the real threat to Scotland’s place at the heart of Europe is not home rule, but Tory rule.
David Cameron’s promise of an EU referendum in 2017 is, of course, irrelevant to Scotland as we will already have been evicted from that organisation on gaining independence.
This does, however, hold out the interesting prospect of the part of this island still in the EU having a debate on whether to get out, and the part no longer in the EU having a debate on whether to get back in, though whether Scots will also be permitted a referendum remains to be seen.
There is also the alarming possibility that all this hokey cokey, in-out, shake it all about, will result in huge population movement with hordes of Europhiles/phobes crossing the border seeking their own particular Shangrila.
Can we cope with a mass immigration of disaffected Sassenachs?
David Cameron has said that he doesn’t want to hold a referendum on whether we should be in or out of the European Union until we have a clearer idea of what exactly it is we would be in or out of.
I’d like to think that the same applies to a referendum on Scottish independence.
STUART C POOLE