UKIP got crime out of ranks, but can Tories meet UKIP challenge?
UKIP, like any other major party, has had major problems about the types that hooked into them. It has cleared house in sacking an alleged criminal. Now, the real politics start. Can the Tories truly meet the UKIP challenge? It won't go away...
Say what you like about UKIP; at least it managed to get two subjects on top of the political agenda that were taboo only a short time ago -- membership of the EU, and the closely related topic of immigration.
UKIP also showed honour and decency in firing an aide reported to police for alleged serious crime. About time too, for a party quintessentially connected with notions of a new and cleaner politics.
But back to the big stuff. Although the referendum has been bandied about for quite a long time now, there has been a dearth of information and discussion about what kind of deal Cameron intends to negotiate with Brussels.
What will be in his goody-bag that he will put before the people in 2017?
First up, is the slightly sinister commitment to ‘ever-closer union’; shorthand for the pan-European Superstate.
Cameron will negotiate for an opt-out, which means that whatever moves are made towards the Brussels autocracy will be inapplicable in Britain.
Then the much more difficult problem of ‘freedom of movement’; the unfettered right of EU passport holders to emigrate to the UK. Brussels will not shift one inch on what is one of the EU fundamentals. Britain’s scope for negotiation will be limited to rights to benefits.
This might take the form of time-limitation e.g. two (3, 4?) years residence before qualifying, or previous contribution e.g. two years of NI payments. There is a good chance that Germany and some other countries might be supportive -- excluding the Eastern Europeans, of course.
A key issue will be extending the powers of national governments to block EU legislative proposals. By itself, this would roll back the frontiers of the EU quasi-state. Again, there could be a measure of support from the ‘north’.
In the event of new admissions to the club, Cameron should seek new mechanisms to prevent any mass-migration. (The new admissions are likely to include the semi-criminal Balkan states, but not Turkey).
Cameron could be calling for a bonfire of EU regulations, especially those that burden business and stifle economic growth. He should also push for the acceleration of free trade deals, such as the stalled Atlantic FTA. New deals should be negotiated in Asia.
He must ensure that the City is 100 percent protected from Brussels, that seems to have a vendetta against our financial services industry, and that Eurozone rues on the single market are not applied to non-Euro members.
What else might be on the agenda?
The notion of a European defence force is risible; only the UK and France have a credible military, so Cameron need not waste much time discussing this except to echo Maggie. ‘No, no, NO!.' But Brussels must keep its nose out of policing issues.
Finally, there are the vexed issues of social policy -- limitation on working hours, maternity leave and agency workers’ rights.
This all amounts to a pretty hefty programme of work. It is important that Cameron does not give in to pressure to advance the date of the referendum, as some are suggesting.
His chances of success are greatly bound up with not rushing. If he pulls this all off, the referendum result will be ‘stay’
There is always a strong pull towards the status quo, which, as a pro-European, he needs to recognise.
Robin Mitchinson is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. A former barrister, living in the Isle of Man, he is an international public management specialist with almost two decades of experience in institutional development, decentralisation and democratisation processes. He has advised governments and major international institutions across the world
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