David Cameron and his Australian spin-doctor, Lynton Crosby, are taking the gloves off to woo back voters concerned about immigration who are seduced by Nigel Farage and UKIP. This is the only explanation for all the noise being made about imposing quotas on EU migrants and capping the volume of National Insurance numbers given to fresh EU newcomers.
This tactic will naturally backfire. It grants legitimacy to UKIP, confirming to Tory voters that Nigel Farage’s party has been correct all along and only he can drag the complacent Tory party kicking and screaming to act on their voter’s concerns. Never mind that Tory proposals are completely illegal under EU law, confirmed by outgoing EU Commission President Barroso on the Andrew Marr show yesterday. This is a Tory party in disarray, desperate to say anything to stop the haemorrhage of their supporters to UKIP and prevent further defections.
Ken Clarke, the Conservative’s resident arch-Europhile, was onto something when he urged Cameron to focus on promoting his popular tax cuts and winning the election on the centre-ground, because they can’t out-do UKIP in its own game. The fact is most Tory politicians don’t care at all about immigration. As far as they are concerned the flow of labour from Europe is good for the economy.
The much-maligned commentator Matthew Parris, known for provocative pieces attacking UKIP supporters, has his thumb on the pulse of what the modern Tory party is all about. Just like the Clacton-hating journalist, most Cameronites want a bustling, metropolitan Britain and they see voters concerned about immigration as an obstacle holding the country back from its fashionable, European destiny.
Recent outbursts of Eurosceptic policy are little more than nervous knee-jerk reactions which are awkward additions to the modern Tory party. So Cameron wouldn’t be making these desperate promises if he didn’t believe his re-election is now threatened by former Conservative voters flocking to Farage.
What should be done now? The coalition government shouldn’t be forced to act illegally or in a manner which will compromise Britain’s standing as a nation which upholds the treaties and covenants we make. Rather, before drastic measures are taken (or making promises never to be acted on) the issue of our membership must be settled by referendum. The government will need democratic consent before changing the
The government’s plans to give a half-way compromise, undermining the principle on which the EU’s existence rests on (among other things, the freedom of movement) while still being able to stay in Europe, are nothing short of fantasy. The Great British Public should not fall for this parlour trick. Any current plans to cap EU migrants will be illegal under EU law and are not deliverable until after successfully severing our ties to Brussels by getting out of the EU.
Cameron claims his ‘red line’ for renegotiation is control over our borders. If he can’t achieve it, he says he will campaign to leave the EU in the event of an In/Out referendum – this is, of course, if the electorate vote him in at the general election. But it is an impossible aim because it will be illegal, as admitted on the Today programme this morning by the Portuguese Secretary of State for European Affairs: you can’t have freedom of capital, goods and services without also freedom of labour, they all complement each other. The EU is a package deal; the goal of having four freedoms established was written into the treaties from the beginning. It is disingenuous of Cameron or any of his other ministers to claim otherwise.
Reforming freedom of movement is also a ‘red line’ for Brussels and an ‘unnegotiable’ innovation to the treaties. The real solution is to cut the Gordian knot of EU membership so national sovereignty can be restored, and action can be taken by our Parliament to control our own borders by imposing permanent quotas or establishing a points-based system like Australia. Brussels will never stomach treaty change to allow Britain to dismantle the principles the EU is found on.
If the Tories were earnest about restoring control over our borders, they should hold an In/Out referendum now so we can Get Britain Out.