European Union

David Cameron Wants A Counseling Session With the EU, Not a Divorce


In today's Prime Minister's Questions David Cameron was asked how he would vote in an "in or out" referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union. The question comes after Education Secretary Michael Gove said that he thought the UK was "ready to quit" the Nobel laureate last week. Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has said that Gove's sentiments reflect what many Tories feel about the UK's membership of the EU.

David Cameron replied that he would not support a referendum on membership, but rather supported a referendum on a renegotiated settlement:

I am not happy with us leaving the European Union. I'm not happy with the status quo either. I think what the vast majority of this country want is a new settlement with Europe, and then that settlement being put to fresh consent.

Data does not support the Prime Minister's view that the "vast majority" of Britons want a renegotiated membership. This month's YouGov poll shows that 48 percent of British voters would vote to leave the EU altogether, and only 31 percent would vote to stay in. The poll seems to back up Hammond's point that most Tories feel that the UK is ready to quit, with 65 percent of voters who intend to vote for the Conservatives saying that they would vote to leave the EU.

Cameron is in a difficult position as he is in coalition with the pro-EU Liberal Democrats, only 27 percent of whom would vote to leave the EU. The partnership forged in May 2010 has been far from easy, and upsetting coalition partners over one of their pet topics is something Cameron probably wants to avoid.

Whatever the split might be amongst British voters on membership of the EU, there is majority support for a vote to decide the matter. A referendum on EU membership is supported by 60 percent of those polled. When broken down by party a referendum on EU membership has support from 55 percent of likely Labour voters and 75 percent of likely Conservative voters. Even the Liberal Democrats, who do not support leaving the EU, have 43 percent of likely voters saying they support a referendum. It seems that the general consensus is that having EU membership put to the British voters is long overdue.

If Cameron wants to win back support that he has been losing since May 2010 he will have to address the UK's relationship with the EU. The Conservatives have been losing supporters to the explicitly eurosceptic UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party), who although having no seats in Westminster have 12 seats in the European parliament.

The euro-crisis looks likely to only prompt a further increase in British euroscepticism. The majority of Britons who intend to support the two major parties in the future think there should be a referendum on EU membership, and polling seems to indicate that an "out" vote would prevail, an outcome that would be supported by most Conservatives. It's a shame that calling such a referendum would almost certainly break the Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition and potentially hand power back to Labour. In the meantime Cameron will have to see more and more supporters switching to UKIP while Britain enjoys all of the benefits of membership with the EU. 

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  1. Doesn’t he know that second marriages are 60% more successful than first ones?

  2. “I only beat you because I love you.”

    1. “Perhaps you could love me just a little less, sir…”

      1. “I couldn’t love you less if I tried.”

  3. “in or out”i

    I think you meant “the old ‘in AND out'” – cause they’re fucked.

    /Clockwork Orange

    1. Nice work with the HTML there.

      Why, thank me!

  4. Also is it just me, or are his fingers at a freakishly weird angle? How are his pinky and ring finger that far apart.

    1. That’s not his hand.

  5. UK to EU: “I wish I could quit you.”

    1. That was my attempt at a Brokeback Mountain reference, but I think I misquoted it. Oh well, Batman Begins should have won “Best Adapted Screenplay” that year anyway.

      1. But Batman Begins wasn’t about gay cowboys eating pudding.

  6. David Cameron Wants A Counseling Session With the EU, Not a Divorce

    He should want to be friends with benefits, like the members of the European Free Trade Association.

  7. David Cameron looks like a TV or movie politician. Not the good-looking, “you can count on me” kind, but the other extreme; the average-looking, “you can’t trust me” kind. It’s an unreal look; like he was designed to look blah.

  8. Sir Humphrey: Minister, Britain has had the same foreign policy objective for at least the last five hundred years: to create a disunited Europe. In that cause we have fought with the Dutch against the Spanish, with the Germans against the French, with the French and Italians against the Germans, and with the French against the Germans and Italians. Divide and rule, you see. Why should we change now, when it’s worked so well?
    Hacker: That’s all ancient history, surely?
    Sir Humphrey: Yes, and current policy. We ‘had’ to break the whole thing [the EEC] up, so we had to get inside. We tried to break it up from the outside, but that wouldn’t work. Now that we’re inside we can make a complete pig’s breakfast of the whole thing: set the Germans against the French, the French against the Italians, the Italians against the Dutch. The Foreign Office is terribly pleased; it’s just like old times.
    Hacker: But surely we’re all committed to the European ideal?
    Sir Humphrey: [chuckles] Really, Minister.
    Hacker: If not, why are we pushing for an increase in the membership?
    Sir Humphrey: Well, for the same reason. It’s just like the United Nations, in fact; the more members it has, the more arguments it can stir up, the more futile and impotent it becomes.
    Hacker: What appalling cynicism.
    Sir Humphrey: Yes… We call it diplomacy, Minister.

    1. set the Germans against the French, the French against the Italians, the Italians against the Dutch. The Foreign Office is terribly pleased; it’s just like old times.

      This sounds exactly like what Caesar did 2000 years ago. In his Gallic Wars he uses different names for the different groups of Gauls and Germans but the version of the book I have comes with maps…pretty much the whole 7 or so year campaign is him running around Western Europe and Briton with 5 or so Legions waging war on any group who tries to set up an alliance with another group.

  9. Hacker: Europe is a community of nations, dedicated towards one goal.
    Sir Humphrey: Oh, ha ha ha.
    Hacker: May we share the joke, Humphrey?
    Sir Humphrey: Oh Minister, let’s look at this objectively. It is a game played for national interests, and always was. Why do you suppose we went into it?
    Hacker: To strengthen the brotherhood of free Western nations.
    Sir Humphrey: Oh really. We went in to screw the French by splitting them off from the Germans.
    Hacker: So why did the French go into it, then?
    Sir Humphrey: Well, to protect their inefficient farmers from commercial competition.
    Hacker: That certainly doesn’t apply to the Germans.
    Sir Humphrey: No, no. They went in to cleanse themselves of genocide and apply for readmission to the human race.
    Hacker: I never heard such appalling cynicism! At least the small nations didn’t go into it for selfish reasons.
    Sir Humphrey: Oh really? Luxembourg is in it for the perks; the capital of the EEC, all that foreign money pouring in.
    Hacker: Very sensible central location.
    Sir Humphrey: With the administration in Brussels and the Parliament in Strasbourg? Minister, it’s like having the House of Commons in Swindon and the Civil Service in Kettering!

    1. Yes, Minister would be my favorite documentary if they’d have only been a bit more cynical about government.

  10. Why would they want to divorce a Nobel Peace Prize winner?
    You’d have to be some sort of warmongering imperialist to suggest doing such a thing.

    1. Maybe they would get 50% of the Nobel Prize award money?

  11. You can’t negotiate with Europe, you either withdraw or you sit at the sideline until you finally get forced into treaty law by other countries. The referendum is just bogus marketeering by Cameron.

    1. Listen, and understand. The EU is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you accede.

    2. Indeed, Cameron says he will only hold a referendum if he wins a new election, and then he hopes it’ll be too late to do anything about it…

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