Casey Larsen

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What the Papers are Saying Not much reading time? Here's a summary of key editorials

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LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 18:  British newspaper are displayed for sale on the day that the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems agree a deal on press reform on March 18, 2013 in London, England. A Press regulation deal has been agreed today by Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems following a call for reform in the wake of Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into press ethics and phone hacking. (Photo by Rosie Hallam/Getty Images)

Remain in the EU

 The Guardian

Declared on 9th May
Headline: “David Cameron makes a serious case
Why they want to Remain: The Guardian made its position clear early on, saying it would “make no apology” for insisting on staying in the EU, emphasising the need to speak of Europe as a ‘we’ rather than a ‘they’. It declared on the same day that David Cameron delivered a key speech at the British Museum, marking the beginning of his campaign, and went along with many of the principles he outlined. In contrast to his approach in recent weeks, the Prime Minster’s speech was wide-ranging, full of history and imbued with an internationalist appeal. The paper has argued it was the kind of speech that Cameron should have continued to make throughout the campaign (and Inker has said he ought to make again before the vote). He proclaimed Britain’s fate to be inescapably intertwined with that of Europe, insisted that international stability depends on cooperation with the continent, and contended that the modern world is necessarily made up of large interlocking bodies that involve compromise and hard work.

The Economist

Declared on 16th June
Headline: “Divided We Fall: The Future of Britain and Europe

the economist (david parkins)
Why they want to Remain: The classically liberal magazine’s official line is that: ‘A Vote to Leave the European Union would diminish both Britain and Europe’. It has argued for this from an historical and international perspective, stating that Brexit would mark “a defeat for the liberal order that has underpinned the West’s prosperity”. Britain would not easily handle the economic challenges of an exit, and the purported opportunities presented by leaving are more of a hopeful delusion than a realistic prospect. The UK would be the poorer for it, and because of its interdependence with the continent, so would Europe. The campaign to Leave has played up to ‘Little Englander’ prejudices, especially over immigration, and derided a wide range of official authorities for being representative of the global elite, more worthy of our contempt than our attention. The answer to the European Union’s democratic deficit is to fight for reform from within, no matter how arduous or futile the struggle can often seem. International power-broking is inherently more difficult than domestic politics. The EU has evolved and will continue to do so. If Britain really wanted to lead in Europe, it could.

The Financial Times

Declared on 15th June
Headline: “Britain should vote to stay in the EU
Why they want to Remain: Unsurprisingly, the FT has issued stark warnings about the economic and financial risks of Brexit, most notably through one its star columnists, Martin Wolf, who has consistently emphasized how seriously the predictions of experts must be taken. For not doing so, he’s suggested the Leave campaign might as well be called ‘Project Lie’. It has also taken a greater interest in continental attitudes to the referendum than other publications, highlighting Germany’s worry that a British exit will not only deprive them of a heavyweight counterpart, but trigger similar demands among likeminded nordic and western states, leading to further possible departures. Another of its columnists, Philip Stephens, has argued for the overall economic success of European Union membership, pointing to Britain’s unrelenting progress since it joined as “the sick man of Europe” in 1973. He’s also lamented the anti-establishment ethos of the Leave campaign as “anti-intellectual boorishness”, and likened its scare-mongering over the prospect of Turkish membership to Donald Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States.

The Times

Declared on 17th June
Headline: “Remaking Europe
Why they want to Remain: The Times’ case for remaining in the European Union is as pragmatic as it is hopeful, calling for a “new alliance of sovereign EU nations dedicated to free trade and reform, led by Britain”. Remaining in the single market, it admits, will be “a pragmatic rather than enthusiastic choice”. Though the future is uncertain, remaining is without doubt the less risky option. Yet because this doesn’t quite stir the heart, the Brexiteers have managed to appear the braver and more exciting outfit, but this doesn’t make them the best or most sensible choice. Historically, the EU has played a crucial role in preserving post-War peace and in drawing formerly eastern bloc countries towards democracy. In spite of which, some of its institutions are certainly “undemocratic, meddling, and short-sighted”, but this is not reason to give up on them in the long-run. The Times has throw down the gauntlet on the question of European reform. David Cameron should ally with other countries to shake the Union out of complacency. The EU might well collapse if it does not reform. In light of which, the Prime Minister could restore and indeed aggrandize his standing by becoming the man who triggers it. Could the mere fact of our tightly fought referendum really bring this about? Whether or not people think so could decide the vote.

Daily Mirror

Declared on 18th June
Headline: “Make the EU Referendum Victory in Europe Day and vote Remain for the sake of the future
( they want to Remain: On 5th July 1945, the day of Britain’s first post-war general election, the Daily Mirror reprinted Philip Zec’s famous V-E Day cartoon. It is a picture of a broken man, returning from the battlefront, bearing a flag marked ‘victory and peace in Europe’. Their slogan then read: ‘Here you are, don’t lose it again!’ The EU is the embodiment of post-war peace and should not be taken for granted. Leavers seeking to ‘get our country back’ want to return to a past that was “unkinder than the present”, and cannot be our future. The future, and our present, is one in which “international organisations are the community halls of the 21st Century global village that we must live in.” The likes of NATO and the UN are not perfect, but we’re yet to devise better methods of protecting the West and striving towards world peace. Such is the case with the EU when it comes to democracy and prosperity. One can’t “magic up” sovereignty by leaving the single market (see Inker – ‘Paradise Regained?’). Immigration control could perhaps be regained, but too many view immigrants with spite instead of gratitude. The Brexiteers’ proposed Australian-style entry system is “designed for countries with migrant populations proportionately larger than ours.” So leaving simply won’t address the problem. Economically, neither side’s forecasts can be trusted. The only certainty is that our economic future is less certain outside of the EU. We must learn from the past, but not live in it.

The Mail on Sunday

Declared on 19th June
Headline: “Vote Remain for a safer, freer, more prosperous – and, yes, and even Greater Britain
Why they want to Remain: Possibly the only editorial to make an outright case for the virtues of supra-national government. Our governments often get things wrong, so the existence of a voice higher up the line isn’t such a bad thing. And nationalMoS2 Template Master independence would come at a price: a period of uncertainty, most likely some tariffs, and definitely financial turmoil. But Leavers are content to make large economic sacrifices in the name of “a rose-tinted freedom”. It’s a tough, globalized world out there, and the UK will have to fight hard if it goes it alone. Not everyone will survive, so is it moral to tell the people that “you may have to suffer for my ideals”? Leavers, however, have rightly gained traction by pointing to the difficulties of reforming the EU. If Cameron’s side wins, he must fight to move it in the right direction. The question of freedom of movement will otherwise continue to gnaw away not only at the Conservative Party, but Europe as a whole. Regardless, the vote is about more than immigration, for which Leavers have no real plan, only “nebulous promises”. Finally, “the human heart yearns for simple solutions and uncomplicated choices”, but these do not exist, especially in today’s world, so “splendid isolation” is not an option. To continue experiencing the growth it has enjoyed since joining the EU, the UK must sit at its top table, not on its sidelines.

The Observer

Declared on 19th June
Headline: “For an international, liberal and open Britain, we need to be part of the EU
Why they want to Remain: Leaving the single market is a great unknown. All we know is that it will probably be bad for us, because it’s been good to us thus far. But the EU not just an economic project, it is an idealistic project, first designed to prevent wars that are now inconceivable. To this extent, it has been a great success, but that doesn’t mean that its time is up. The globalized nature of our world has brought about new and equally important challenges. These challenges are not always local, so nor can sovereignty be. The EU is not perfect, it has many problems and has experienced many failures, but on balance it has overwhelmingly been a force for good. In fact, it is “the world’s most successful example of international co-operation”. It has created the world’s largest market, and because of it many former members of the Soviet Union now belong to the family of nations. Britain has played a large part in this, and as an “economic power and force for liberal democracy”, has a responsibility to the rest of the world to remain undiminished. By leaving, it would fail this count. And Europe would be made the weaker for it. Fragile and threatened, Britain should lead it at the time when it must change in order to survive. Only then can such issues as the inequality caused by globalization be thoroughly addressed. “The case for remaining, then, must not just be framed in the language of economics, but in the wider vocabulary of the world we wish to inhabit.”

Leave the EU

The Sun

Declared on 13th June
Headline: “We urge our readers to beLEAVE in Britain and vote to quit the EU on June 23
Why they want to Leave: Staying in the EU with the ambition of reforming it is the last thing on the mind of The Sun, Rupert Murdoch’s other daily paper, which has made a polar opposite case to that of The Times by telling its readers that Europe “cannot (…this is our last chance to remove ourselves from the undemocratic Brussels machine”. The EU has been in decline ever since the UK joined 43 years. It is incompetent at dealing with crises and as a result has made life much worse for many of its members. After all, “Greece is bankrupt…and Italy is in danger of going the same way.” Almost half of Spain’s young people are out of work. If immigration continues to spiral out of control, the future of Britons’ jobs and wages will be much the worse. If the EU’s present makeup does not ensure this, the fact that several more much poorer countries are in the process of joining guarantees it. “Schools, hospitals, roads and housing stock” will be under threat. The tabloid goes on to lambast the Remain campaign, which it states is made up of “the corporate establishment, arrogant Europhiles and foreign banks”. The tirade of warnings from international bodies can largely be ignored because all of them were wrong when they encouraged the UK to join the single currency. “Our country has a glorious history”, proclaims The Sun, “this is our chance to make Britain even greater”.

The Spectator

Declared on 15th June
Headline: “Out – and into the world
Why they want to Leave: Over the course of the campaign, The Spectator has been critical of the tactics employed by Remain, spectatormost especially George Osborne’s manipulation of treasury figures. Their stance is consistent with the position they took on the referendum for continued EEC membership of 1975, and they’ve chosen to use the same internationalist headline they chose then. The magazine feels vindicated in the arguments it made back then, when it expressed worries that economic cooperation would slowly morph into political union. Today, the the European Union’s lack of accountability, combined with its bureaucratic incompetency, means that it is “making the people of our continent poorer and less free”. The sovereignty question cannot simply be overlooked, or redefined out of relevance. The UK’s elected MPs often find themselves processing more orders and paperwork from Brussels than they do from Westminster. Free movement used to be a good idea, but times change and it no longer is, and this should be recognized. The same could be said of the Euro – the evidence is all around us. The West is best protected by NATO and always has been. The reason the rest of Europe refused to grant David Cameron any real concessions, any sight of fundamental reform, is because nobody thought the UK would ever dare take matters into its own hands. “Democracy matters”, concludes The Spectator, and was too hard fought for to surrender now. Vote Leave.

The Sunday Telegraph

Declared on 19th June
Headline: “We must Vote Leave to create a Britain fit for the future
Why they want to Leave: At the core of the case for leaving is ultimately an ambitious vision, while the urge to remain is fundamentally pessimistic. George Osborne’s bullying ‘post-Brexit budget’ is the latest evidence of this, which makes “unconscionable threats” to pensioners. In light of such tactics the population’s fear of leaving is to be expected, but what is surprising is the extent to which Project Fear has been disavowed or wholly ignored. Remain is losing the argument because their case is simply “too weak to sell”. The European Union is a hugely expensive organisation to which to belong and at all times looms around it a sense of perpetual crisis. There should be no reason the UK needs to be a member of the EU in order to trade with it. The Union’s regulatory powers show no sign of being curtailed, and the more often we’re told it has no intention of becoming a single state, the more closely it comes to resembling one. The Prime Minister’s renegotiations achieved nothing, and while he likes to hint at further reform, there is no evidence at all this would be possible. And if we made the choice to remain, there’s no reason why it should be. Once we leave, our own government can handle our worries about Europe. If we don’t like its approach, we will have the power to change it. We will remain a part of Europe, and needn’t fear conflict with it because democracies do not go to war. It is high time we took advantage of the huge opportunities all around the world, which Remain is all too happy to ignore. “The EU belongs to the past…we hope the country chooses the future”.

The Sunday Times

Declared on 19th June
Headline: “Time for Britain to strike a new deal with Europe
sunday timesWhy they want to Leave: A unique call to leave for the sake of reform. Boris Johnson’s early allusions to the option of staging a “double referendum strategy” were not at all daft. Indeed, leaving could be the first step towards the ‘fundamental reform’ that David Cameron promised in his 2013 ‘Bloomberg Speech’. He was right back then to say (as he did, it takes some reminding) that Britain could prosper outside of the EU if it so chose to leave. It was not due to its membership of the European Economic Community that the UK revitalized itself in the 80s, but because of Margaret Thatcher’s reforms. One of her achievements was indeed the creation of the single market, but it is flawed and incomplete. Indeed, there are many countries that sell more into the EU than Britain does without having any trade deals with Europe at all. In fact, UK exports have grown at their lowest-ever rate during the period of the single market. The EU has further failed in its handling of the Euro crises, and its attempts to centralize security and defence have been calamitous. Further integration awaits our vote to remain. This is neither in the interests of Britain, nor Europe. A vote to leave, combined with a delayed trigger of Article 50, “is of fundamental importance because in previous crises the EU has been willing to negotiate once a member state has shown it will be pushed no further.” We must help Europe rethink its identity in global terms, just as we’ve been doing over the course of the campaign. Voting to leave is the only way of doing so.

Sunday Express

Declared on 19th June
Headline: “Today’s Britain is strong, dynamic and influential. Let’s keep it that way. Vote Leave.
Why they want to Leave: No matter what happens, this vote will cause “one of the most dramatic shifts of power in political history”. Voting to leave is the right thing to do for those who truly love Europe and everything it stands for. The EU, for all its flaws, has proven itself to be entirely immune to reform. If we remain, it will be able to exercise all the more coercion for not having to deal with the threat of us leaving. It would be taken as a “recommendation for project Europe and a green light for even further integration and expansion”. The reason the Leave campaign has focused so ardently on immigration is because it matters. It matters, quite simply, because it will never be under the control of the British government so long as the UK remains a member of the European Union. By adopting a points-based system, and granting greater access to citizens of commonwealth countries, Britain could become even more tolerant and multicultural than it already is. It’s unnecessary at this stage to set out a perfect plan for our departure. When one’s house is on fire, the priority is to walk out of the door before deciding what to do next. European countries will continue to want to trade with us. If they don’t, the UK can open its doors to the rest of the world. Economic predictions about a Leave vote are bound to be pessimistic because economists hate uncertainty. Whatever suffering the markets experience, it will be short-lived. Irrespective, we must vote to leave for a much higher purpose, because “a British departure from the EU, if executed correctly, could save Europe from itself”.

Daily Express

Declared…many times.
Latest Headline: “Why should Britain leave the EU?
Why they want to Leave: It is not surprising that the Express has made it clear that it wishes to leave on several occasions. Britain’s identity is fundamentally more international than it is European, and leaving the 28-member bloc would allow the UK to better embrace this fact. It would become a stronger and more effective member of the other international organisations of which it is a part. Immigration is a great source of concern for most of the country, and controlling the figures that come in and out is of indispensable importance because immigration has social consequences as well as economic benefits. The institutions of the EU are not conducive to reform, meaning that their democratic deficit will continue to put broader European interests ahead of those of the British people.

The Spectator’s Brexit Debate, Part II The night before declaring for Leave, the magazine hosted its second public clash of ideas

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This week, the Spectator announced it would be backing Brexit, repeating the headline it opted for when opposing entry to the European Economic Community in 1975, “Out – and into to the world”, is it’s headline. Last night, the magazine staged its second referendum debate. If its audience served as a national opinion poll, the Leave campaign could be confident of a landslide. Daniel Hannan and Suzanne Evans defeated Lord Charles Falconer and Sir Malcolm Rifkind by 369 votes to 160.

Suzanne Evans opened the argument for Leave with an urge for courage and resolution. In contemplating to leave the European Union we’re experiencing the same kind of angst and uncertainty as one does when thinking about quitting a job we don’t like, she said. In wanting to remain, we feel a sense of security that stems from familiarity. We’re apprehensive about the risks and uncertainties of change. But we have an underlying and undeniable feeling that something isn’t right, and needs to change. Change is often required for growth. If we’re confident in our own abilities, and are determined to reach our unique potential, we’ll be bold enough to make the move. And since we’re perfectly competent, we’ll do more than just fine. We’ll be much happier than before.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind made the case that the EU is changing more than we think – it is no longer a ‘one size fits all’ institution. By now there are different kinds of EU membership, there are varied groupings with diverse interests. Think of the single currency and the Schengen area, not all countries belong to them. David Cameron’s opt out of ‘ever closer union’ is a real thing and a true achievement. True sovereignty, moreover, still resides in the British parliament. This is the only body that can declare our wars, determine our taxes, and control our National Health Service, schools and universities.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, formerly John Major's Foreign Secretary
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, formerly John Major’s Foreign Secretary

Daniel Hannan ridiculed Ed Balls’ recent suggestion that the UK should remain in the EU and then reform it. “Reform! If only we had thought of that!” For forty years the EU has proven itself over and again to be immune to reform. The Prime Minister’s failed negotiations are the proof that it does not desire fundamental change. Moreover, Brussels would interpret a British vote to remain as full-blown consent to continue along its current trajectory. We must think of leaving as a process, not an event. Almost nothing would change until the precise deal by which the UK ceases to be a member of the EU is clinched. We should be encouraging ‘Project Cheer’, an optimistic vision of an internationalist Britain, cooperating on the basis of language and law, culture and kinship. Most importantly, a Britain with the power to hire and fire its lawmakers.

Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan
Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan

Lord Falconer closed by insisting that Britain’s influence on the world stage would be markedly reduced if it left. It would reflect a poor choice of values, in a choice about whether to turn one’s back on an organisation that has been instrumental to peace in Europe since the Second World War, or to continue to benefit from the fruits of cooperation. One such example being increased security, brought about by the likes of the European Arrest Warrant. A loud chorus of hissing was issued from the crowd on this point, as Lord Falconer suggested that leaving would cause Britain to become “a haven for people who commit criminal acts”.

The Great Mistakes David Cameron's real errors long predate the campaign

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David Cameron has given up the war of attrition and opted for a blitz. He’s decided that a big margin of victory is his best chance of surviving the referendum, and he knows that the best means of achieving this is by scaring people.

It’s likely he’ll succeed, but when it comes to his underlying ambition to settle the European question for the Conservatives, he will have failed, because for many in his party, winning the vote isn’t the same as winning the argument.

This week must surely have marked the apotheosis of ‘Project Fear’. On Monday, David Cameron invoked the image of nothing other than a bomb. Brexit would “put a bomb under the economy,” said the Prime Minister, “and the worst thing is that we’d have lit the fuse ourselves.”

The fuse to which he refers is the promise he made three years ago to hold an In-Out referendum if his party won the general election. It was a promise to let the British people ‘have their say’, with the simultaneous intention of appeasing and then muzzling the wing of his party that had been demanding it. Why has this promise turned into a fuse? And is the Prime Minister sure it isn’t rather leading towards his own Cabinet?

For David Davis – the Conservative MP who challenged David Cameron for his party’s leadership in 2005, and is now campaigning to leave the EU – it’s indicative of a long-term plan that’s gone badly wrong. In his view, the referendum has been poorly handled “in both strategic and tactical terms”, and he told me that when it comes to the Conservative divide over Europe, “it has worsened the problem, there’s no doubt about it.”

Mr. Davis is adamant that Remain’s scare campaign ultimately stems from a lack of alternative arguments combined with a secret terror that Brexit would be an outstanding success. The weaker the claim, the greater one is prone to exaggerate it, says Davis.

But what’s making the split in the Prime Minister’s party all the more acrimonious is that this is precisely what Cameron promised not to do when he made his ‘Bloomberg Speech’ in January 2013, outlining his ambitions for comprehensive EU reform and announcing his promise to hold the vote. In other words, the speech by which he lit the fuse.

He stated then that “proponents on both sides of the argument will need to avoid exaggerating their claims” before proclaiming that “of course Britain could make our own way in the world, outside the EU, if we chose to do so, so could any other member state.” That much of his campaign has dedicated itself to denying the latter statement by means of violating the former pledge doesn’t sit well amongst Leavers.

What caused the change of tone? For Mr. Davis, of course there’s an element of political panic at work, but so is there an acute struggle for self-preservation. After all, there are some Brexiteers who are campaigning for their own ends. So the Prime Minister certainly gave hostage to fortune by so prematurely announcing that he wouldn’t be standing for a third term. In trying to settle the European question, Mr. Cameron is trying to enshrine his legacy. In trying to settle it so quickly, he’s made a big mistake, says Mr. Davies.

According to him, the Prime Minister had two other options. He could have had two referendums, first to agree on the mandate with which to negotiate in the first place, thus putting “phenomenal pressure” on the commissioners of the other countries, and then another to decide on the outcome.

He might otherwise have decided on a vote but taken a more aloof approach to it, somewhat in the manner of Harold Wilson. He might said ‘this is a fundamental issue for the country, I won’t fiddle around with negotiations, you know how this has worked for the past forty years, you know I’m undertaken to continue to seek reform so long as I’m Prime Minister’, and then stood above the matter, and let the public decide. In such circumstances, Davis believes, the Prime Minister wouldn’t feel as threatened as he is alleged to be.

Instead, Cameron did something in between. He went into negotiations with no real levers, and consequently got a poor outcome that has virtually been forgotten since. This fired up the right wing he’s been trying to quell ever since becoming his party’s leader and disillusioned those whose loyalty depended on the promise of genuine reform, such as Boris Johnson. He must be kicking himself, said Davis.

Consequently, the Prime Minister’s been unable to make the positive case for the European Union that he should be making, and has little else but the economy on which to focus. Against the claims that the Union is anti-democratic, that it is fundamentally immune to reform, and that a voluntary economic agreement has morphed into an inescapable political project since Britain joined the EEC in 1973, he’s had little to say.

As such, the long-term questions about the EU are being obfuscated, and his party’s Leave campaigners who want them debated are getting infuriated. It would only take 50 Conservative MPs to trigger a vote of no confidence, and the more the Prime Minister betrays his promise to argue fairly and address matters of principle, the more likely he is to reach this golden number.

David Cameron has spent ten years trying to unify the Conservatives on the European question, ever since he argued for more powers to be returned to Westminster from Brussels when contesting the leadership with Mr. Davis. He’s now got just two weeks left, and the more frantically he tries to win the vote, the more likely he looks like losing his party.

The PM’s Speech Margaret Thatcher knew what she wanted from Europe, does David Cameron?

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With only two weeks to go, David Cameron is showing no sign of changing the basic pragmatism of his approach. He thinks there are many problems with the EU, but leaving will not solve them. He dislikes the European Parliament – it drives him ‘mad’ – but one has to be in it in order to influence it. All of which is perfectly legitimate.

The problem is that this isn’t a general election. It is a once in a generation event, perhaps once in a lifetime, so the argument for ‘better the devil you know’ doesn’t quite cut it. Voters can’t, or shouldn’t, be so easily swayed by the idea of settling until something better comes along. Though doing precisely that is often considered a key conservative tenet, it’s more complicated when you’ve only got one vote to change direction. Indeed, the Leave campaign has argued that there’s no such thing as a vote for the status quo. Britain either strives to grow by itself or else evolves according to the random mutations of the European Union, they say.

Voters may be choosing the stay in the European Union for the next thirty to fifty years, not just the next five. The future is unclear, and few facts can be forecast. So the Prime Minister needs some arguments of principle for staying in to which he can appeal when the facts change, or don’t turn out the way he’d have liked them to.

In European politics Cameron’s only ideal has been that of reform, through which he has hoped to re-establish a sense of control over the Union’s trajectory. He’s attempted to do this by shifting his party’s alliances in Brussels and Strasbourg. Few Brits know more about the ebbs and flows of the European political process than Edward McMillan-Scott, an MEP for 30 years, and none has been more directly affected by David Cameron’s maneuvers on the continent.

From 1997-2001 Macmillan-Scott was the leader of the Conservative MEPs in the European Parliament, and between 2004-2014 was four times elected one of its Vice-Presidents. In 2009, Conservative MEPs fulfilled a pledge that Cameron had made four years earlier whilst running for his party’s leadership when they defected from the centrist European People’s Party (EPP). They merged with other MEPs, mostly Polish, to form the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR), an assembly of Eurosceptics and anti-federalists whom Nick Clegg memorably termed “a bunch of nutters, homophobes, anti-Semites and climate-change deniers”.

A lifelong pro-European, McMillan-Scott objected to the move, and in the year of its making successfully stood as an independent Vice-President against the ECR’s own nominee, Polish MEP Michal Kaminski, whom he’d discovered to have past links with an extremist group in his home country. He was expelled from the Conservative Party as a result by William Hague and joined the Liberal Democrats in 2010.

I spoke to MacMillan-Scott about the Conservative Party’s relationship with Europe, who reminded me that Cameron is really confronting a legacy left by Thatcher. In 1988, the Iron Lady made a speech in Bruges that defined what she wanted from the European Union. She stated five guiding principles: ‘willing cooperation between sovereign states’; ‘encouraging change’; ‘Europe open to enterprise’; ‘Europe open to the world’; ‘Europe and defence’.

Distilled and summarized, the speech objected to the concentration of power in Brussels, urged dogmatic policies to be abandoned in favour of practical problem solving, championed free markets over central planning, opposed regulations that would rigidify Europe’s labour market, argued for border controls, denounced protectionism and upheld NATO as the real defence of the West.

At a time when the shape of the European political landscape was under fundamental dispute, the Bruges Speech constituted a clear British vision of what it should look like, and many British politicians, especially in the Conservative party, have never lost sight of it. It formed the backbone of Thatcher’s opposition to then president of the European Commission Jacques Delors, and spawned the creation of the Bruges Group, a think-tank that has spread its word as gospel ever since.

Almost thirty years on, many of its disciples have lost their faith, and feel that Delors’ dream of political integration has won at the expense of Thatcher’s vision for economic cooperation. For such people, there is nothing that David Cameron could have brought back from his negotiations that would have been satisfactory. They’re not interested in the semantics of European political diplomacy because they refuse to speak a language that’s lost all meaning to them. They simply want out. Can’t the Prime Minister offer them anything better than profound disappointed if Remain wins?

One of Edward McMillan-Scott’s great regrets is that over the course of a thirty-year career in European politics, he has not heard one Tory – barring John Major – make a speech in favour of the EU. This is what David Cameron should do. He has so far only recommended that the British people indefinitely remain a reluctant member of an imperfect organization.

The Prime Minister’s 2013 ‘Bloomberg Speech’ serves only to remind people that his renegotiations were a failure. His grand reforming ambitions reformed almost nothing. He needs a Bruges Speech of his own – perhaps a ‘Brussels Speech’ – to tell us why it’s worth staying in the EU for the next thirty years in spite of this, and what he envisions Britain’s role in the world to be:

  • What does opting out of ‘ever closer Union’ actually opt the UK out of?
  • Does he believe in limited immigration, and if so how would he push for it within the EU?
  • Has the definition of sovereignty really changed due to globalization?
  • Or does the ‘shared and extendable’ version only apply to medium-sized economies?
  • If so, does this amount to an admission that Britain relies on the EU to be a world power?
  • Why is it worth prioritizing the single market over emerging and faster growing economies?
  • Does the United Kingdom have a responsibility to lead the European Union through its darkest house?

David Cameron will be gone in four years time, if not before, but the European Union he wants us to remain a part of will still be here. He needs to answer the questions that people will still be asking beyond his final term in office.

Hillary & Brexit Clinton's White House and the Special Relationship

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Hillary (

This week Hillary Clinton finally clinched the Democratic Presidential nomination, and has been endorsed by President Obama. Unless something goes badly wrong, she will become the next (and indeed first female) President of the United States. What’s the likely impact of this on the United Kingdom, depending on whether it stays or leaves the European Union?

No matter the outcome of the referendum, the next chapter of the Special Relationship is likely to chronicle some unfamiliar strains, and European politics is the prime reason for this.

Come November, the most widely expected and least controversial anticipated scenario is that President Clinton will be meeting with David Cameron, who remains Prime Minister of the United Kingdom he successfully campaigned to stay in a ‘reformed’ European Union.

This would please Hillary, who has echoed her President’s sentiments. She had this communicated through her senior policy advisor, Jake Sullivan, who told the Observer at the end of April that she “believes that transatlantic cooperation is essential, and that cooperation is strongest when Europe is united. She has always valued a strong United Kingdom in a strong EU. And she values a strong British voice in the EU.” So far, so status quo.

But while she putatively shares the Prime Minister’s stance on British membership of the Union, her view of his European politics is not so straight-forward. Unsurprisingly, we know this by means of her private emails. Last year, the Guardian reported that, in the run up to Cameron’s election in 2010, Clinton frequently corresponded with her confidante Sidney Blumenthal on the subject of his gross inexperience, particularly in the field of foreign policy.

One subject of particular scorn was the fact that Cameron’s attempt to derail the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty while opposition Tory leader had severely irritated the heads of several European states. Clinton termed his behaviour “so revealing and whacky”, which in turn revealed that Mrs. Clinton has little understanding of – or sympathy for – the widespread and long-standing discontent about the European Union that exists within the British Conservative Party, and which the Prime Minister has been battling so tiringly to overcome for so long.

A vote to remain would make Cameron’s relationship with Clinton much simpler, but this fundamental misunderstanding could prove a continued source of diplomatic difficulty if he is pressured into seeking further reform by the prospect of losing his party’s confidence.

In the event of a vote to leave, however, it’s more than likely that a President Clinton would be dealing with someone else entirely. Building a relationship with a Brexiteer Prime Minister such as Boris Johnson could very much go either way. On the one hand, she might privately resent the added complications of dealing with the United Kingdom in a separate capacity to the European Union when it comes to economic matters.

On the other hand, there is one issue on which the two might just gel very well indeed. Both President Obama and David Cameron are desperate to seal the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the United States and the European Union by the end of this year. Obama in particular has made calls for it to get done quickly, in the face of “upcoming political transitions – in the United States and Europe”. This is especially the case because Hillary has expressed grave doubts about the deal. While under pressure from the formerly insurgent Bernie Sanders, she strongly criticized its corporate overtones.

On the same issue Boris has performed a spectacular U-Turn. In 2014 he used his Telegraph column to urge politicians on both sides of the Atlantic to “ignore the Left-wing mumbo-jumbo and support a treaty that will make us all richer”. He even invoked his political hero to proclaim that “this deal would have Churchill beaming.”

But he’s since used his stance on Brexit to criticize the Union’s fumbling diplomacy and accused the EU of being the sole obstacle to Britain getting the trade deal it wants with America, likening the joint efforts of the 28 member bloc to a “pantomime horse”.

Some think that the so-called Special Relationship could experience a “second renaissance” if Clinton claims the White House. She has always lauded the vexing concept on visits to the UK and is known to think more fondly of it than Barack Obama. Would she really follow her President’s warning and put the United Kingdom “at the back of the queue” for a trade deal if it left the EU?

It’s not likely. She would be keen to seek a deal quickly. Doing so would both further discredit the Trumpist protectionism she will have denounced and pander to the anti-corporatist Democrats that Bernie stole away from her. And there’s nothing that Boris Johnson would like better than to frame himself as the leader who emancipated Britain from the shackles of the European Union in order to renew the transatlantic alliance. It could be match made in heaven.

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