There are now regular stories emerging of splits in the cabinet over David Cameron’s “renegotiation”. UKIP raised concerns over his paucity of ambition long ago. Now Tory back-benchers — and apparently some Tory Cabinet Ministers — are starting to see the light.
What has he asked for? Slightly less favourable welfare terms for EU migrants. Big deal. That’s fiddling at the margin, and will make no real difference as long as massive wage differentials exist between EU member states. Theresa May is slightly more realistic, arguing that free movement should be restricted to EU citizens with job offers. But it’s still nowhere near enough.
We must be able to control our borders. We must be able to admit applicants on the basis of skills, regardless of country-of-origin. We cannot tolerate a situation where an unskilled Romanian (even with a job offer) takes precedence over a Canadian brain surgeon, or an Australian nuclear physicist, or an Indian software engineer. Brussels tells us that free movement in the EU allows employers to choose from a wider talent pool. No chaps. You’ve got it wrong. It restricts us to less than 10% of the world’s population.
Then the euro-zone. Just recently, the risk of a eurozone/non-eurozone split (in which the larger eurozone will have a structural majority) has emerged as a threat. Indeed it is, and we need action to resolve it. But that doesn’t address all the other problems of the EU that have been with us for decades.
What about employment law? Energy policy? The right to make our own trade deals? Agriculture? Fisheries? An independent British judiciary, free of interference from Brussels or Strasbourg? Cameron hasn’t even raised these issues, so far as we know.
There also seems to be increasing pressure amongst Tory MPs to prevent the government using public money for the YES campaign. When the referendum comes, Cameron’s renegotiation will be clearly seen as a mere PR exercise, with no substance. I think we’ll see rather large numbers of Tory MPs, and activists — and also some Labour MPs and activists — enthusiastically embracing the NO campaign.