United Kingdom

5 reasons why David Cameron’s discourse on the EU is mistaken

David Cameron,  the UK Prime Minister (Source: Wikimedia Commons, 10 Downing Street)

David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister (Source: Wikimedia Commons, 10 Downing Street)

Several studies, including those realised by the government and the Parliament, highlight the positive role of EU membership for British businesses and for the British people as a whole. Other studies show that immigrants, in particular European ones, contributed more in taxes over the past decade than they claimed in benefits. Moreover, the UK has very often championed liberalism. But this does not stop David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, from adopting a negative discourse about hotly debated topics such as EU integration and immigration / free-movement. This attempt to compete with the UKIP for the votes of right-wing voters by copying its simplistic solutions is however a mistaken strategy; rather, the Tories and their leader should have a clear strategy to reform the EU (instead of threatening to leave it) and the UK, based on their traditional values and beliefs.

First, it is useless for the Tories to copy the UKIP. Indeed, Eurosceptic and anti-immigration Tory backbenchers may be the best campaigners for UKIP, insofar as they force on top of the agenda the very same topics that Nigel Farage wants to discuss in the media: the EU and immigration. This allows Mr Farage to avoid talking about the negative effects his programme would have for the British economy and the British image in the world. In addition, instead of considering the possibility to occasionally build local alliances with the UKIP, further strengthening it, the Tories should highlight what is wrong with the UKIP’s programme and claims.

Secondly, the full adhesion of UKIP voters to the party’s programme remains to be demonstrated. Indeed, Europe and immigration are often the scapegoat of deeper difficulties, and the popularity of such topics probably hides a real deeper dissatisfaction with politics (both European and domestic). So, the Tories should not adopt the same superficial analysis that underlies the UKIP’s discourse; rather, they should attempt to tackle the true problems faced by the people, such as unemployment and a decreasing purchasing power in the past years. And admitting that UKIP voters really agree with Mr Farage, why would they choose an imitation rather than the original anti-EU, anti-immigrant party?

Thirdly, David Cameron was not elected on an anti-EU, anti-immigration programme. Although he did not manage to get a sufficient majority to govern alone, David Cameron should not abandon the hallmarks of the programme that allowed him to become leader of the Conservative Party and then UK Prime Minister. The Tories’ programme was about being more pro-business, giving more freedom of choice to individuals and businesses, and empowering the civil society (remember the idea of the “big society”), while partly rolling back the State. It was not about restricting free movement and some kind of isolationism.

Fourthly, the UK has a tradition of being among the politically and economically liberal Nations. It is not the time to squander that legacy. In addition, anti-EU and anti-immigration rhetoric creates uncertainty and damages the attractiveness of the UK in the eyes of foreign businesses, investors and skilled workers.

Finally, Cameron needs to stop tacking and should instead adopt a clear vision on the future of the EU and the strategy to implement it. About everybody in Europe agrees that the EU needs reforms. The question is: which reforms, and how to get them through the decision process? Occasionally, the British PM has made proposals that must be welcomed, e.g., cutting red-tape at EU level. But too often, his criticism is not constructive. The Tories and Mr Cameron need to understand that they will be able to reform the EU not by formulating ultimatum or threats – this will isolate them further in the EU – but by formulating proposals and building alliances with their continental partners. This requires a more diplomatic and balanced approach, with softer tones, deeper thinking about reformed policies, and compromise-readiness.

So, David Cameron and the Tories need to set clear and credible goals and build an effective strategy to achieve them. Convincing voters and reforming the EU will not succeed by imitating the UKIP; instead, citizens are waiting for an alternative solution!

Pierre-Antoine KLETHI

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4 thoughts on “5 reasons why David Cameron’s discourse on the EU is mistaken

  1. Lets all hold hands and have a big EU group hug? The EU only likes pro EU points of view, but to criticism the EU is to be unfaithful, frown upon, ‘populist’. The EU is deluded by its never ending craving for ever more political power, hoping to create a EU super state, run and managed by Brussels. We will all be called ‘regions’ as nation states will be abolished in the future grand plan.
    5 reasons? I could give you 50 reasons to get rid of the EU altogether. The coming #EP2014 elections will shake up the bloated EU.

    • Contrary to what you claim, federalists (like me) also want a reform of the EU. I stand with Commission President Barroso’s call for “more Europe where Europe is needed and less Europe where it is not needed”. The idea of a European federalism relies on the famous “principle of subsidiarity” according to which political action is to be undertaken at the most appropriate level (be it the supra-national, national, regional or local level). It is not the idea of an EU super-State Leviathan.
      Moreover, the USA is a federation… Are the States powerless? Are they called “regions”? No!

      If you wish, give me those 50 reasons… I’d be delighted to debate with you about them. 😉

  2. Threats to the gravy train is the only thing the subsidy junkies in the EU actually understand. The UK has been a net contributor to the EU budget in every year of membership apart from the referendum year of 1975 (Surprise Surprise) even when we were on an IMF program in the 1970’s (Labour wrecked the economy the previous time they were in office) so there is no reason why any nation should be a net recipient of EU funds. When that matter is addressed & “CAP” scrapped altogether there might be more interest in EU matters from the only global power that is a member of the EU

    • Thanks for your comment.
      The UK is a net contributor as a whole, but even the UK has regions that benefit a lot from EU membership (in particular in Northern Ireland, Wales). Moreover, the EU also is about solidarity, not only giving and getting the same back.
      Regarding the CAP, I agree that it needs a reform (and it is being reformed). The same remark as above applies: some UK regions benefit a lot from CAP subsidies.
      Finally, I am afraid the UK has not anymore the ambition, nor the capability to be a global power. If the UK wants to keep this image of global power, it needs the EU!

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