PM’s smoke and mirrors
LABOUR leader Jeremy Corbyn is correct to accuse David Cameron of “negotiating the wrong goals, in the wrong way, for the wrong reasons.”
Cameron promised the electorate and his party that there would be fundamental change in Britain’s relations with the European Union.
He insisted that EU citizens working in Britain should be refused in-work benefits for four years after arrival and also access to social housing.
To give the impression of wide-ranging discussions, he demanded acceptance that Britain has its own currency, that “ever-closer union” be dropped and that competitiveness be enhanced by cutting red tape — what trade unionists call minimum legal standards to promote workplace equality, health and safety.
None of this presented European Council president Donald Tusk with difficulty in agreeing Cameron’s proposals.
This is 2016 not 1988 when Jacques Delors seduced the TUC into a pro-EU stance by painting a beautiful picture of the near-mythical beast, social Europe.
Since then European Central Bank president and former Goldman Sachs director Mario Draghi despatched this broken-down nag to the knacker’s yard in 2012, telling the Wall Street Journal bluntly: “The European social model has already gone.”
Similarly, Tusk concurs with Cameron that non-euro EU states must not be disregarded in eurozone discussions and that no-one mention ever-closer union, but it means nothing.
Powerful countries at the head of the eurozone want ever-closer economic and political union and will pursue it whatever promises or guarantees are given.
Cameron has been ingratiating himself in Brussels and elsewhere for the sole reason that Tory MPs and core supporters, whether still in his party or decamped to Ukip, want fewer EU citizens working — and claiming appropriate benefits — in Britain.
His promise of a referendum and his negotiating tour of Europe were designed to keep the lid on open rebellion and to schmooze the grassroots into believing that it’s all going to be different from now on.
It isn’t. EU politicians have no intention of falling foul of their own electorates by accepting that their nationals should be treated as second-class citizens in Britain.
And neither should they be. Any infringement of the rate-for-the-job principle, whether in pay or in-work benefits, is a recipe for workplace divisions.
Cameron has already retreated from his insistence on a blanket four-year refusal of benefits to citizens of other EU states working in Britain.
He has settled for an “emergency brake,” which would depend on the British government petitioning the European Commission to ask permission in specific circumstances to reduce benefits payments.
The decision and the scheme’s operation would depend on the commission’s good will and could, even then, be struck out by the European Court of Justice for infringing freedom of movement.
Tory Eurosceptic Peter Lilley was right to point out that even Cameron’s watered-down anti-EU migrant proposal could conflict with the freedom of movement clause in the Lisbon treaty.
The reality is that Cameron’s round-Europe tour is nothing more than, as Corbyn said, a “smoke and mirrors sideshow” to justify the Prime Minister’s decision to hold a referendum.
He needed the EU apparatus and member states to collaborate in the pretence that hard negotiations were taking place, but there was never any possibility of him declaring that he had won insufficient concessions and that he would recommend withdrawal from the bloc.
Cameron and his cronies are bought and sold by the City of London, especially its finance sector, which is single-minded in its backing for the EU.
This helps to confirm the Morning Star and many in the labour movement in their determination to end Britain’s membership of a bankers’ Europe.
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