19 February 2016

Cameron’s deal is an insult to the intelligence of the British public


There is a new dimension emerging in the EU referendum. It is arguable that the biggest single issue now is no longer sovereignty, nor immigration, nor the economic arguments, though all of these remain important. It is the dawning awareness of what an appalling insult David Cameron’s sham negotiations are to the intelligence of the British public.

If the EU had granted all of Cameron’s trivial requests instantly it would not have made the slightest difference to Britain’s situation within the EU. David Cameron is rightly regarded in Brussels as “one of us”. That is why he has no traction there. His negotiating stance was like saying: “I am determined to buy your house, even if I have to pay £1m, but first can I try to persuade you to part with it for £200.000?”

Yet no politician ever entered a negotiating chamber holding stronger cards. Remember how the panicking eurocrats imposed misery on millions of people and destabilised the economy of an entire continent to keep basket-case Greece in the eurozone. Now, in the grip of a self-inflicted migration crisis, the EU would concede anything – even treaty change – to keep Europe’s most successful economy, a nuclear power with a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, within the crumbling empire.

But Dave is cheaply bought. All he wanted was a cosmetic “deal” less significant than the restoration of the curved cucumber, so he could return home shouting “Rejoice! Rejoice!” even though he hasn’t even retaken South Georgia, let alone the Falklands. By enacting this farce he is effectively telling the world that Britain is a nation of morons who will buy anything he sells them.

He may have miscalculated. This pathetic “deal”, vulnerable to cancellation post-referendum, is more provocative to the public than MPs’ expenses. So is the spectacle of MPs who have postured for years as “Eurosceptics” hailing it as a new dawn, in the hope of gaining prime ministerial patronage. This could be a tipping point in the growing alienation of the public from the political class.

The complicit media are fast losing credibility too, with their absurd attempts to inject drama into a non-event by employing terms such as “cliffhanger”, “crucial summit”, etc and breathlessly reporting the contrived nice cop/nasty cop manoeuvres of EU leaders, rehearsing the stale theatre of bogus confrontations and all-night sittings, before pulling a desperately mangy rabbit out of the hat. In the best Shakespearean tradition of light relief from rude mechanicals we were even treated to a buffoonish entr’acte from Boris.

The media could have served Britain’s interests by greeting Cameron’s proposals with derision when they were first unveiled. Editorials headed “He’s having a laugh, surely?” might have embarrassed him into adopting a serious reform agenda. Instead, the media have treated this “battling for Britain” pantomime as if it mattered. The reality is it could not matter less. But the truly serious issue is that the establishment feels it can, with impunity, grossly insult the intelligence of the British people. That arrogant assumption could have a dramatic effect on the outcome of the referendum.

Gerald Warner is a political commentator.