For the UK, getting what it wants in the EU is not enough. It needs to feel it has won.

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.

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  1. tst

    Joe Thorpe: “What do we get for our £20 billion that Singapore of South Korea get for free? ”

    Seriously have you Europhobes not yet grasped the difference between friction free trade and a free trade agreement (with limited scope). Nobody is denying that an “exited” UK won’t have some trade relationship with the EU. Those of us skeptical of this “BrExit panacea” suspect that either will end up with a much more restricted free trade (done on the rEU’s terms as they will be the senior partner in the deal) or end up essentially with the same deal as we have at the moment including payments to the EU (but without any political influence in Brussels).

    Slow handclap to those “patriotic” BrExit-ers…. still when has the truth ever influenced nationalists.

  2. Jonathan

    Joe Thorpe, your comment is a demonstration of the exact thing Jon described in his Blog – the view that only reason to be part of the EU is to somehow “win” and get back directly more economic value than we put in. The policy of the EU however, is to direct investment towards poorer, less developed areas in order to increase the quality of life and level of economic activity across the whole area, so I don’t think you will ever be satisfied with this.

    Last year the UK spent £54 billion on Welfare, funded by the taxes you pay, in order to stop the unemployed, disabled etc from being left to starve on the streets. Presumably you also object to this “burden” and “extortion”, since it doesn’t directly benefit you?

  3. Ken Adams

    For those who see no future in the EU we do not want a more dynamic trade policy, a push to competitiveness and better regulation from within the EU, that is only the view of someone committed to the project trying to manipulate the debate.

    We understand the EU is not a project to enable and enhance trade, but one designed specifically to unify the countries of Europe, thus our concern is not about regulations, trade policy or competitiveness but our democratic power to control those things at the ballot box.

    We find the EU is stifling our democracy, the EU push for more competitiveness. in effect means the Labour party will not be able to renationalise rail, that we cannot protect our NHS and must accept the total destruction of all national monopolies.

    A more dynamic trade policy could well mean the TTIP that would have the effect of forcing further privatisation and making it financially impossible to reverse and to further diminish democracy with the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism (ISDS).

    Most trade regulations no longer originate in the EU but from other international bodies. If we need better regulations for us, we need to be representing ourselves on these bodies and not allowing the EU to represent us.

  4. Mark Johnston

    Yep, been like this for a while.

  5. Joe Thorpe

    I object to paying the EU one brown penny let alone £20 Billion a year. We are the best people to spend our own money not people we have never heard of of ever seen on a ballot paper. We are a sovereign country, we do not need a lecture from Brussels on everything from a pot of Olive Oil to a Nuclear Power Station. What do we get for our £20 billion that Singapore of South Korea get for free? The EU is nothing but a bunch of racketeers taking protection money with menaces.

    As I have repeatedly said, what does the UK get for its money that other countries get for free? & then add to that the cost of implementing legislation dictated from Brussels to 100% of the country despite the fact only 5% of the economy is trade with the EU. The EU is a burden in far more ways than the £20 Billion it extorts each year, If we leave we get back our WTO seat which gives us a voice in trade, we can set the standards for imported goods just as the EU can set the standards of goods it imports & lets face it we export very little to the EU in the grand scheme of things, much of what is claimed as exports merely passes through Antwerp & Rotterdam.