cameroneuropeToday saw the launch of the Conservatives election campaign for the Euro Elections with a speech by David Cameron in Manchester.

Mr Cameron said:

If you want real change in Europe, you have got to vote Conservative.

Looking at the other parties, there are effectively two extremist camps.

One says: “we love the European Union.”

The other says: “we hate the European Union.”

One says: “we want things to stay the same.”

The other says: “let’s just walk away from the EU.”

But in all this – there are three words they are missing…three words that sum up everything we are about in Europe.

Britain’s. National. Interest.

British jobs. British opportunities. British livelihoods.

And our argument is – you don’t maximise those interests by saying everything’s fine in Europe…you don’t maximise those interests by walking away from Europe…you get the best for Britain by rolling up your sleeves and fighting for real change in Europe.

It is certainly welcome to challenge the BBC/Lab/Lib Dem mindset that support for whatever insanity comes out of the EU is “moderate” and that any scepticism towards it is extremist – of “swivel-eyed.” However there is a difficulty in the implicit message that those who have clearly decided they wish to “walk away” from the EU should vote UKIP. That rather conflicts with the pitch that those who wish to leave should vote Conservative as the only effective mechanism for achieving a referendum which would make such an outcome possible.

Naturally Mr Cameron did also include this point:

If, after the negotiations are done, you want to be able to go into a polling booth, and cast your vote about Britain’s future in Europe….if you want that in-out referendum we have waited decades for….then you have got to vote Conservative.

May 22nd is a huge opportunity for the British people to get behind our plan.. a referendum by the end of 2017 – in or out – no ifs, no buts.

Of course the main pitch is of optimism that the UK’s relationship with the EU can be changed in such in a significant way that withdrawal would not be something must of us would wish to choose when the referendum came.

So when we canvass and someone explains that the hate the EU – they hate the way it erodes Parliamentary democracy, how its regulations restrict individual liberty, the way it’s trade restrictions cause poverty in developing country, the way the CAP harms the environment, how it wastes billions and how its operations are riddled with corruption – what should we say?

Should we say:

“You are an extremist to want to just walk way and are ignoring the national interest – so vote UKIP.”

Or should we say:

“As Conservatives we share that strength of feeling. We will seek to deal with those matters by renegotiation and then give you a referendum – so if you feel those problems remain you will have a chance to vote to come out. So vote Conservative.”

Mr Cameron mentioned examples of where red tape had been reduced and then added:

“By exercising our opt-out from Justice and Home Affairs, we have achieved a real return of power.

“So if you want British Parliaments drawing up our laws, British courts working to the letter of those laws, British police forces deciding how best to deal with crime…then you’ve got to have a Party in Europe that draws that line and you’ve got to vote Conservative.

So part of the message is optimism that the renegotiation would be significant. It should be acknowledged that the EU doesn’t simply get worse and worse – the Common Fisheries Policy is now slightly less bad than it was. But overall each year that goes by we say more EU spending and regulation than the year before.

The Conservatives Euro Elections manifesto is also published today. I understand that the process of writing it has been rather less consultative than the next year’s General Election manifesto will be – with all the involvement of the policy boards in the voluntary party and the 1922 Committee.

In any event the specifics of what would be needed from a renegotiation for Mr Cameron to recommend us voting to remain in the EU are not specified.

There is the following message included in the “what we will do” section:

Make decisions for ourselves, working with our European partners where it makes sense to do so and support the establishment of a new principle in the EU: ‘Europe if necessary, national when possible.’

If that were to be accepted that would be a very substantial renegotiation indeed. But as Nick Clegg would say we would need to read the small print.

The manifesto adds:

Press for a return to free movement of workers; free movement is a central principle of the EU, but it cannot be a freedom to move just for more generous benefits.

The priorities for renegotiation are listed as follows:

● Powers flowing away from Brussels, not to it, and cutting the cost of EU administration.

 ● National parliaments able to work together to block unwanted European legislation.

 ● Businesses liberated from red tape and benefiting from the strength of the EU’s own market – the biggest and wealthiest on the planet – to open up greater free trade with North America and Asia.

 ● Our police forces and justice systems able to protect British citizens, unencumbered by unnecessary interference from the European institutions, including the European Court of Human Rights.

 ● Free movement to take up work, not a freedom to move just for more generous benefits.

 ● Support for the continued enlargement of the EU to new members, but with new mechanisms in place to prevent vast migrations across the continent.

 ● End our commitment to an ‘ever closer union,’ as enshrined in the Treaty, to which every EU country has to sign up. It may appeal to
some countries. But it is not right for Britain, and we must ensure we are no longer subject to it.

It is true those are general. But even if there had been a long list of directives and budgets which we demanded exemption from the ultimate test is not what is asked for but what is agreed to.

M Cameron is bound to come under pressure to give more detail about what he will be asking for. But his answer that whatever he asks for and whatever he is granted the in/out referendum is the ultimate safeguard. If we trust the people it is a credible response.