We’ve become used to Prime Minister David Cameron pulling a rabbit out of his top hat (ho, ho) – but judging on the quality and delivery of his pro-European Union speech today, he’s either lost his touch, or he simply doesn’t regard the delivery of his letter of “demands” today as that important.
I have a feeling it’s the latter. The Prime Minister has a wealth of experience around him, and wouldn’t have given such a bland, snoozy speech today if he genuinely thought this was a pivotal moment.
Actually, despite his public statements in the past, and indeed his CBI speech yesterday, Cameron and his pollsters probably saw today’s speech as a first real foray into the debate: “set out the stall, poll the response, figure out where we’re going wrong.”
It’s no surprise that Mr. Cameron kept talking about migration and benefits. These are the words – he knows – that Britons want to hear more than anything. But he also knows he can scare people by talking about “security” – both economic and military. This is where NATO types will need to fight the corner, and free trade types (real ones, not TTIP ones) will need to make their voices heard to combat his false narratives.
The “soft” right, the “sort of” Out-ers hate talking about immigration – Dan Hannan, Douglas Carswell, etc. But Number 10 knows this is the single largest motivating factor, and the Tories will be acutely aware that they won the election by repeating the word “security” and juxtaposing it with pictures of Ed Miliband eating bacon sandwiches.
Here’s what Mr Cameron claims to want, for Britain:
• Protect Britain’s access to the Single Market – a given that wouldn’t need negotiation if we stayed in
• Cut red tape and ensure ‘competitiveness is written into Europe’s DNA’ – meaningless waffle
• End abuse of ‘freedom of movement’ by EU migrants – what “abuse”? It’s in the EU treaties!
• Exempt Britain from ‘ever-closer union’ – Again, core part of the EU, which won’t be changed
Readers will know most of these don’t actually mean anything. His brief elaborations at Chatham House this morning were also deviously vague.
He spoke about “flexibility” for the first 15 minutes of his speech, and in the last part, he spoke of more rigidity.
For Mr. Cameron, it is clear, he’s pretending to go for flexibility for Britain, and asking in return for just one core EU rule to be changed (over migrant benefits – a UKIP policy, no less), and for the EU’s open borders to be phased in for new EU members until their economics come into line with the rest of the Eurozone.
Anyone who knows how the EU functions will know that his negotiations on this are total gibberish. We know there will be no treaty change, and we know that Mrs. Merkel and Mr. Juncker will not attempt to slow EU accession for new member states. You only have to look at how they’re now trying to fast track Turkey’s membership to see how that will pan out.
This, from an arch Europhile this morning:
Cameron insisting on something ‘clear, legally binding and irreversible’ means he really doesn’t understand the EU at all. #Brexit looms
— Andrew Duff (@AndrewDuffEU) November 10, 2015
But this isn’t David Cameron being naive, or stupid, or untalented.
This is David Cameron being duplicitous, being conniving, and being a European before being a Briton.
His speech today will have convinced no one of his case, but it won’t have turned many off, either.
As far as Mr. Cameron is concerned at this point, that’s an away no-score draw, and he’ll take it.