Tuesday, 1 January 2013
Will 2013 be the year we are promised a referendum on the EU?
In the last poll of 2012 the Observer showed Labour on 39%, the Conservatives 29%, Liberal Democrats 8% and UKIP maintaining their third position with 15%.
In his end of year address, Cameron carefully avoided any reference to the EU, which is somewhat surprising since it is the key issue for the Tories – the one that determines whether the Party can make any kind of challenge to Labour at the next General Election.
UKIP’s continuing popularity, if only as a party of protest, has caused Cameron his greatest dilemma and he has seemed, in his most recent appearances, to be a man struggling to cling on to his position.
It is quite clear that if he gave an unconditional promise to include an ‘in/out’ referendum in the Party’s manifesto for the 2015 election, UKIP’s stated primary aim would be served by the Tories and Cameron could feel confident that those Tory voters who have defected to UKIP would return to the Party thereby giving them a chance of beating Labour in 2015.
Unfortunately, for the prime minister, he cannot do this because the Tory’s biggest backers, the large corporations, want the UK as a full member of the EU as evidenced by the CBI Director-General, John Cridland, New Year message – in which he said “it was vital the UK remained at the EU table banging the drum for its national interest – shaping the agenda on Single Market reform; on climate change; protecting the financial services industry; and promoting new trade agreements.”
This helps to explain Cameron’s dithering on this issue. Since taking office his, or rather George Osborne’s, strategy has been to put the greatest pressure on the people, by implementing harsh austerity measures and continuing to allow high immigration so that they are prepared to work harder and longer for little or no extra pay.
Through these policies the aim is to create the best conditions possible for both British and overseas global corporations to locate the HQ for their European operations here. Lowing rates of corporation tax and allowing some of the largest corporations to pay little or no tax adds to the attraction of the UK.
Unless the UK is influential within the EU – these corporations will not choose to set up or stay here. So Cameron hopes he will able to do a deal with the other EU members whereby some political powers are returned to the UK, to pacify the voters who want to leave the EU, but still remain influential in Europe. Presently this seems a circle that cannot be squared and it is little wonder that he is avoiding the subject at all costs.
Since the UK buys significantly more from the EU than they from us and that we pay one of the largest contributions towards the EU’s running costs – it is possible that Cameron will be able to strike some kind of deal to return powers for they will not want us to leave. There seems little doubt that his much heralded speech on the issue is being delayed in the hope that he will be able to make an announcement at that time of, at least, the outline of such a deal.
If Cameron can achieve this, there is some hope that he could win a referendum on the offer because the extent to which the British people want to leave the EU, judging by recent polls, is not overwhelming – however, he will want to hold that referendum as a stand alone issue, not incorporated with one asking if we should leave entirely as this must be avoided at all costs! This probably will be suggested as the next step – should the ‘reclaimed powers’ referendum result in a ‘No’.
Although there may be some hope of light at the end of the tunnel for the Tories, against this complex backdrop is the fact that even with the above offer – not enough UKIP voters may not return to the Party to enable them to win the General Election. For those who wish for the UK to withdraw from the EU entirely – this would be a dangerous situation for if Labour do win, they are unlikely to be under the same pressure to hold a referendum and they will continue their policy of ‘being at the heart of the EU’ and seek to find ways to bind us indefinitely, through entangling us in as many new projects as possible.
Whatever the outcome, one thing is for sure – that whoever wins the next election – the policies introduced on the EU and other matters will not be for the benefit of the people, but for the global corporations whose interests the main parties serve.