Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A big delay and a little more

Lisa Schalla, who teaches at The American School of Puerto Vallarta in Mexico, sent me the link to a great article from the Project Syndicate site. She sent it to me a month ago. I lost track of it.

Sorry, Lisa.

Then again, as I read the position paper by Tony Blair, former UK PM, I realized that the issue of Britain's membership in the EU was just now coming to a head.

Wouldn't it be great, I thought, to pair Blair's position with that of the present PM, David Cameron.

Well, Cameron was scheduled to give a big position speech today (Friday) in Holland.

Events in North Africa have caused the Prime Minister to postpone his speech. When he does make it I'll add a link to it as a comment on this post.

Then you'll be able to use the political debate in the UK as a case study in what some of the issues that separate the Conservatives from Labour.

Thanks again, Lisa.

Britain’s European Destiny
By Tony Blair
The toughest challenge in politics right now is resolving the tension between the best long-term policy and the best short-term politics. Nowhere is this tension clearer than in Britain’s debate over Europe.

Tony Blair
Europe has disturbed and divided British politics for years. But this time is different. Now mainstream politicians from the governing party are openly making the case for Britain leaving the European Union, or at least radically changing its relationship with it – which may amount to the same thing – with the sympathy of some of our nation’s leaders and far wider support among the public.

The reason for this resurgent skepticism and hostility toward the EU is not hard to fathom. Europe is in crisis…

The short-term politics is clear: being anti-Europe is today popular. But leadership is not about conceding to short-terms politics. It is about managing short-term politics in the pursuit of the right long-term policy.

“Europe is in crisis, therefore leave” may win a majority in an opinion poll. But, in the leap to “therefore” lies a chasm of error. I believe that such a policy would be politically debilitating, economically damaging, and hugely destructive for Britain’s true long-term interests. Our country faces a real and present danger by edging toward exit. The correct policy is to engage with Europe, to make it clear that Britain intends to be a strong participant in debates about Europe’s future, to build alliances, and to shape an outcome that is consistent with the right way forward, not just for Britain but for Europe as a whole…

The case for the EU today is that member countries, including Britain, need its heft in order to leverage power in economics, trade, defense, and foreign policy, as well as to address global challenges like climate change. The EU gives Britain a weight collectively that it lacks on its own.

It really is that simple. I admire the idealism of Europe’s early founders, but the rationale for Europe today has nothing to do with idealism. It is brutal Realpolitik. In a world in which China and India both have populations 20 times that of the United Kingdom, Britain needs the EU in order to pursue its national interest effectively. With it, we count for more; without it, we count for less…

Europe is a destiny that Britain will never embrace easily. But doing so is essential to remaining a world power, politically and economically. It would be a monumental error of statesmanship to turn our back on Europe and abandon a crucial position of power and influence in the twenty-first century.

Cameron postpones big speech on Europe
Cameron had been due to warn his fellow European leaders that British membership of the EU could be put at risk unless its membership terms are changed. "If we don't address these challenges, the danger is that Europe will fail and the British people will drift towards the exit," Cameron was due to say in the speech to an audience of business leaders in Amsterdam.

PM David Cameron
"There is a growing frustration that the EU is seen as something that is done to people rather than acting on their behalf. And this is being intensified by the very solutions required to resolve the economic problems.

"People are increasingly frustrated that decisions taken further and further away from them mean their living standards are slashed through enforced austerity or their taxes are used to bail out governments on the other side of the continent."…

Cameron was due to declare that he will demand the repatriation of some powers if he wins an overall majority at the next election. The new terms of British membership would then be put to the people in a referendum, possibly around 2018.

Cameron was planning to tell the business audience in Amsterdam: "There is a growing frustration that the EU is seen as something that is done to people rather than acting on their behalf. And this is being intensified by the very solutions required to resolve the economic problems. People are increasingly frustrated that decisions taken further and further away from them mean their living standards are slashed through enforced austerity or their taxes are used to bail out governments on the other side of the continent.

"More of the same will not secure a long-term future for the eurozone. More of the same will not see the European Union keeping pace with the new powerhouse economies. More of the same will not bring the European Union any closer to its citizens. More of the same will just produce more of the same – less competitiveness, less growth, fewer jobs. And that will make our countries weaker, not stronger," Cameron was due to say…

The prime minister was due to say that he supports British membership of the EU and that his aim is to stabilise support in Britain by addressing concerns about power amassed in Brussels. He wants to use a major revision of the Lisbon treaty, which may take place after the European parliamentary elections in 2014, to table his demand for the repatriation of social and employment legislation.

Cameron planned to identify the three major challenges facing Europe as the eurozone crisis, weak European competitiveness, and a lack of democratic accountability. Failure to address these would increase support among those who want to leave, though he was due to say that is not his preference. "I do not want that to happen. I want the European Union to be a success and I want a relationship between Britain and the EU that keeps us in it."

Another post on this issue will appear on Monday.

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At 8:15 AM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

Cameron Promises Britons a Referendum on E.U. Membership

Prime Minister David Cameron promised Britons a decisive referendum within five years on membership in the European Union — provided he wins the next election — in a long-awaited speech on Wednesday...

He coupled his promise with an impassioned defense of continued membership in a more streamlined and competitive European Union, built around its core single market underpinning the body’s internal trade...

The speech was a defining moment in Mr. Cameron’s political career, reflecting a belief that by wresting some powers back from the European Union, he can win the support of a grudging British public that has long been ambivalent — or actively hostile — toward the idea of European integration.

“We have the character of an island nation — independent, forthright, passionate in defense of our sovereignty,” he said. “We can no more change this sensibility than drain the English Channel.”

France, for instance, wants Britain to stay in the European Union, both as an ally in security terms and as a counterweight to Germany, but it is outspoken in its refusal to allow Britain to pick and choose its obligations.

The French concern is shared by many others — that Britain could somehow undermine one of the great, if unfinished, accomplishments of the European Union: the single market in goods and services.

“You cannot do Europe à la carte,” said Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius of France. “Imagine the E.U. was a soccer club: once you’ve joined up and you’re in this club, you can’t then say you want to play rugby.” ...

The proposed referendum is depicted by some here as a gamble — if Britons chose to leave the union, they would be casting aside an engagement that has been a fundamental part of British policy for four decades. A British exit would also mean the departure of a major economic and banking power, placing new obstacles between British businesses and their main trading partners across the English Channel...

Speaking later during a rowdy parliamentary session, Mr. Cameron said the areas where he wanted to see change included “social legislation, employment legislation, environmental legislation where Europe has gone far too far.”...

At 7:43 PM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

To add more detail to the UK-EU relationship, Rebecca Small from Oakton High School, suggests this Washington Post article. It includes two maps illustrating attitudes, and the UK is nearly unique in both.

What Europeans think of the EU (Brits really don’t like it)

How negative is British public opinion toward the European Union? It’s pretty grim: according to the most recent Eurobarometer survey, from May 2011, more Brits believe that the European Union is bad for their country than those who think it’s a good thing. In every other country in the union – even Greece! – poll respondents were more likely to call EU membership good for their country…

Churchill’s famous quote, “We are with Europe but not of it,” highlights the way that English nationalism and Euro-skepticism – even a sense that British islanders are not really European – reinforce one another. It’s a way of thinking about Europe that has some parallels with, for example, the Greek ethnic nationalist movements that oppose EU membership. But ultimately, the idea that “we may be in Europe but are not truly European” is a uniquely British one.

At 4:18 PM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

The (Smart) Politics of EU Posturing

The following is guest post from Princeton University political scientist and the Director of Princeton’s European Union Program, Andrew Moravcsik.

"David Cameron’s call for a referendum is a transparent domestic tactical maneuver, designed to strengthen the Conservative position in upcoming elections scheduled for 2015. His government will have difficulty surviving the next popular vote. Risks must be taken, and right-wing support will be critical—given the unrepresentative nature of the British majoritarian electoral system, which (like the American one) strengthens right-wing extremists. By calling for a referendum, Cameron silences criticism from the virulently Euro-skeptic right-wing of his party and forges a rhetorical tool to peel support from the extreme-right UK Independence and British National Parties. Moreover, the prospect of a referendum threatens to split Labor, while uniting the Tories—at least through the election. For Cameron, the real benefit of this approach is that it is so cheap. Rather than giving right-wing Euro-skeptics something real, he offers them a vague and symbolic IOU, not to be cashed in until 2017 or 2018—an eternity in modern politics…"

At 8:33 AM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

David Cameron’s speech was about as pro-European as can be expected of a British Conservative Prime Minister in the current context.

A guest post from LSE political scientist Simon Hix that originally appeared on the EUROPP blog.

"I read the complete text of David Cameron’s speech before reading any of the commentary in newspapers, on the various blogs or from the usual twitterati. And I’m so glad I did. I came away from an unadulterated reading of the speech pleasantly surprised. This surprise in part reflects my prior fears that Cameron would deliver the most anti-European speech of any British Prime Minister. Instead, the speech is remarkably pro-European given current domestic circumstances – especially the shrillness of the anti-European tabloids, the Europhobia of some Tory backbenchers, and the rising UKIP tide.

"The Prime Minister made the case for Europe, for the EU single market, for Britain as a European power, and even for deeper integration in the Eurozone. Admittedly he wants a somewhat different EU: less federal and more intergovernmental, and a more ‘free’ and less ‘social’ single market. But, these preferences are identical to those of his predecessors, including Thatcher, Major, Blair and Brown..."


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