I’m speaking in Cambridge next week about the UK’s EU referendum and I have been reading a lot of articles about the vote to prepare. Andrew Duff’s piece for Verfassungsblog is one of the best pieces I’ve found – an excellent, and worrying, analysis of the legal complexities facing both Cameron and the EU.
However it was one of the non-legal passages from Duff that got me thinking – this:
much of what the new Conservative government appears to want by way of EU ‘reform’ – such as a more dynamic trade policy, a push to competitiveness and better regulation – is work already well in hand under the auspices of President Juncker’s Commission in any case
Basically the EU is already going in the sort of direction the UK government supposedly wants to see it going. But the institutions and all Member States are going in that direction.
This, it strikes me, is impossible for the British Tory Party and the newspapers to grasp. If you have argued about the EU in win vs. lose, us vs. them terms for so long, it is then very hard to see the EU for what most other EU countries see it – a political pact where it is possible that more win than lose, and that all countries can gain something from a common endeavour.
In other words it is not adequate for Britain to get what it wants if the rest agree with it. Britain has to not only get what it wants, and to get one over on the pesky Europeans, to show how tough it was in the negotiation. It is this determined exceptionalism that other EU Member States and the EU institutions find so hard to bear and, to come back to Duff’s argument, will find it very hard to grant to the UK from a legal point of view.