The phoney war amongst UK political parties over EU membership is over, now that Prime Minister David Cameron has presented his reform package to Parliament.
The Opposition Labour leader has called Cameron’s negotiating efforts a “theatrical sideshow” aimed at appeasing 100 Brexit-minded Conservative MPs in the governing party.
But the most EU-minded party, the Liberal Democrats, is mostly silent and ignored, now that it has only eight MPs after their crushing reduction from 57 in the 2015 general election. So the mantle of most effective EU-minded party falls on the Scottish National Party (SNP), with 50 MPs at Westminster, and they are warning that they are being unwillingly pushed to the EU exit door.
This warning from Edinburgh to London is a chilling one for it opens up a new front of bitter British politics before the June national referendum on EU membership.
The Brexit struggle has become mixed up with the battle to keep the UK united.
Cameron under growing pressure at home to get better benefits deal
UK Prime Minister David Cameron is pushing for more EU concessions on immigrant benefits because he knows the polls are tightening against him.
The latest agreement (end of January) with Brussels says that there could be a delay on benefits for up to four years if Britain could show severe strain on public services and if the other 27 EU states agree.
But some MPs in his own party have criticised the deal, with one calling it pathetic , and Cameron now wants the benefit brake in force straight after the EU referendum, likely in June, with no time limit.
Making the Cameron try harder is the Ipsos MORI poll of January shows that 55% of those asked said ‘remain’ (down 3 points from December) and 36% said ‘leave’ (up 4 points) giving a 19 point gap between the two with a 3.5 point swing to leave.
EU hits back at UK bullying
Some Europeans are getting really annoyed with the UK government’s ‘demands’ for a ‘reformed EU’, says Dutch journalist Joris Luyendijk. His exasperation is aimed at whingeing English politicians and people but stops short of the Scots who are believed to want to stay in Europe.
His verbal explosion is plausible because the British media invariably avoid describing any popular European annoyance and anger at months and months of British ministers travelling continent-wide with a shopping list of EU changes.
Luuendijk’s annoyance rises to anger when he asks ‘. . . . if this referendum is actually a once in a lifetime opportunity to cut the English loose. Why not let them simmer in their splendid irrelevance for a decade or more, and then allow them back in – provided they ask really, really nicely.’
His anger is personalized towards Prime Minister David Cameron who he says ‘. . . has set his sights on largely symbolic measures aimed at humiliating and excluding European migrants, safeguarding domestic interests versus those of the eurozone and, no surprises here, guarantees for London’s financial sector’.
The English likely to enjoy this tirade are substantial in number. They are the 45% who want to leave the EU: they will be laughing from now on their way to the referendum ballot box later this year.