I can’t remember how many European summits I’ve attended. They are generally pretty dull. Last week in Brussels, Mr. Cameron arrived to begin his grand renegotiation. He had previously set out the terms, saying that treaty change was necessary. This was a point that Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond followed up forcibly on the Andrew Marr program in early June.
Sadly for the Prime Minister, his aim of treaty change has now fallen at the first hurdle.
I have never seen a summit where the divisions between the North and South of Europe were so clear.
Any sort of collegiate spirit has now gone within the European Union. Greece obviously dominated the conversation and the northern states are simply running out of patience and know that their taxpayers are unwilling to divert more money towards the Mediterranean.
But the divisions were even sharper on the issue of the Mediterranean migrant crisis. The EU’s Common Asylum Policy needs the concept of burden-sharing to be effective.
However the northern states have seen big political change. A True Finn is now the Foreign Minister in Finland. The Danish People’s Party did extremely well in the recent general election. And Marine Le Pen is as strong as ever.
The list could go on. It is impossible, politically, for the northern countries to sign up to the Juncker plan. Juncker himself appeared pretty much at his wits end, his grand plan now in an extremely fragile state.
It wasn’t very easy for ‘Call Me Dave‘ to get the British renegotiation on the table. But he was allowed a few minutes to talk during coffee. It reminds me of the boy at the back of the class whose got his hand up and when the bell goes at the end of the lesson, the irritable maths master says “Yes Smith! What is it Make it quick!”
It is said that when he discussed the renegotiation that Monsieur Hollande went out for a leak which I suppose gives you a flavour for how seriously it was taken.
But there was one strong of agreement at the summit. There will be no treaty change for the United Kingdom.
The objective of the fundamental renegotiation has fallen at the first hurdle.
Now we enter a technical renegotiation that will go on behind closed doors. But nothing substantial or fundamental is going to come from this.
So what do the long-term Tory eurosceptics do now? I think its time that they put up or shut up.
Otherwise all they are doing is giving the Yes camp a massive head start. And the Yes camp are busy.
We were treated to Richard Branson last Sunday telling us that if we left the EU, we’d be back at 35 per cent tariffs.
He even said he thought if Britain was in the Euro, we’d be better off. More seriously the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) are up to their usual tricks, being propelled by the BBC who claim that they are the voice of business.
The No camp cannot just stand there and allow this nonsense to continue.
But looking at the Eurosceptic Tories has brought back memories of twenty-two years ago when I had a proper job and a life.
I watched closely the Maastricht rebellion and remember well that 95 backbench Conservatives signed an Early Day paving motion in opposition to the Treaty that created the European Union. But by the time the third reading had come, they had been whittled down to 26.
And when Major used the motion of confidence to push the Treaty through, only one rebelled.
Even the so-called “bastards” Lilley, Howard, Portillo, Redwood, did nothing.
It was clear to me then that career Conservative politicians had decided to put party before country.
It was abominable. It made me realise that UKIP was necessary and that something had to be done.
So what will happen this time? I hope I’m wrong but I expect to see the Whips’ Office putting huge pressure on MPs. No doubt Tory associations will be pressured to threaten de-selection to those who go against Dave.
In the end, there will be lots of people who agree with the No campaign in private, but won’t have the balls to do anything public.
Let us hope I’m wrong, but I doubt it. At least in UKIP we are 100 per cent united. We are the vital grassroots component of this No campaign. It is the modern day battle of Britain.
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I am getting confused. A couple of years ago, Cameron’s government were hell bent on arming the Syrian rebels to fight against Assad.
I thought then that it was madness as we simply didn’t know who the rebels were and that they certainly contained IS fanatics.
Happily, UKIP’s pressure persuaded a good number of backbench Tory rebellions and we didn’t intervene.
Now we hear that the government wants to start air strikes in Syria again.
So are we now on Assad’s side?
I generally think its better not to intervene militarily unless we have a clear long-term strategic goal. I am not a supporter of Mr. Assad or Mr. Putin and I’ve been shouted down by the political class over the last couple of years for making the simple point that on the greatest international issue that we face, namely Islamic extremism, these two gentlemen are on our side.
But you cannot knock out IS in just one country. It would need a concerted approach across the whole region. It would need to be simultaneous and it may take 20 years. That’s the debate that we need to have.
Nigel Farage MEP is the leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP)