UK Prime minister David Cameron has agreed to an up or down British vote on the EU but not until 2017 (conveniently after the next election in 2015).

Should Cameron lose the election, one can forget about the promise to hold an up-or-down vote.

Cameron’s Telegraph Op-Ed

Cameron has other strings attached to the vote. Yesterday, after at least a year of promises to do so, Cameron outlined the changes he wants to the EU treaty in his Telegraph op-ed EU is Not Working and We Will Change It.

People are worried that Britain is being sucked into a United States of Europe; that may be what some others want, but it is not for us. They see decisions being taken far away, rather than by their elected representatives in Parliament. And they worry that European rules have allowed people to claim benefits without ever working here. As a result, democratic consent for Britain’s membership has worn wafer thin.

And although it would not be a very smart negotiating tactic to lay all Britain’s cards on the table at the outset, I know people want more detail about the specific changes we will seek. So I can confirm today that tackling these concerns will be at the heart of our approach.

Cameron’s Wish List of Changes

  1. National parliaments able to work together to block unwanted European legislation.
  2. 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.
  3. Our police forces and justice systems able to protect British citizens, unencumbered by unnecessary interference from the European institutions, including the ECHR.
  4. Free movement to take up work, not free benefits.
  5. Support for the continued enlargement of the EU to new members but with new mechanisms in place to prevent vast migrations across the Continent.
  6. So, yes to the single market. Yes to turbo-charging free trade. No to ever-closer union. No to a constant flow of power to Brussels. No to unnecessary interference.
  7. No to participation in eurozone bailouts or notions such as a European Army.

Proposal number 1 is straight from the looney bin. Cameron proposes setting up some sort of  committee that can block EU regulations that the majority of countries in the EU want. 

Proposals 2 and 6 limit the ability of the EU to set trade rules. If every country is free to create its own trade agreements, precisely what is the EU for?

Proposals 3, 4, 6, and 7 make perfect sense except for the fact that Germany and France and likely the rest of the EU would never agree to change the treaty along those lines.

Nowhere does Cameron specifically mention financial transactions or absurd tariff proposals, but arguably they are implied in points 1 and 2.

Yet, without specific written agreements on agricultural subsidies, financial transaction taxes, bailouts, and even the funding of a European army, eventually the majority is going to rule.

Europe is ‘For Life’, Francois Hollande tells David Cameron

Flashback December 14, 2012: Europe is ‘for life’, Francois Hollande tells David Cameron in EU Power Spat

The French President, Francois Hollande, declared that Europe is not “a la carte” like a menu from which member states can pick and choose their powers.

He issued his rebuke to the Prime Minister as Mr Cameron insisted he would fight for a “better deal for Britain” and seek to take back certain powers from Europe.

The Coalition is conducting a comprehensive review of all the powers that the EU has over life in Britain, ranging from business and employment rules to the criminal justice system.

The review will determine which powers Mr Cameron seeks to claw back from Brussels when the next EU treaty is written, setting out closer political and economic links between the 17 countries in the euro.

However, Mr Hollande indicated that he would attempt to block Mr Cameron’s demands to “repatriate” powers in any proposed new deal for Britain.

Anything Changed Since Hollande’s Message?

Has anything changed since December 2012? Not really. If anything, disagreements with Cameron have gotten more widespread.

Merkel Says She Cannot Satisfy All Britain’s EU Wishes

February 27, 2014: Merkel Says She Cannot Satisfy All Britain’s EU Wishes.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the British parliament on Thursday she was not prepared to promise fundamental reform of the European Union for London’s sake, but said the bloc did need some changes and that Britain should not leave it.

In London for a one-day visit at a time when uncertainty about Britain’s future in the EU is rising because of a promise by Prime Minister David Cameron to offer Britons an in/out membership referendum, Merkel suggested she was ready to go some, but not all the way, to meeting some of Cameron’s demands.

“Some expect my speech to pave the way for a fundamental reform of the European architecture which will satisfy all kinds of alleged or actual British wishes. I am afraid they are in for a disappointment,” Merkel said in English.

“Others are expecting the exact opposite and they are hoping that I will deliver the clear and simple message here in London that the rest of Europe is not prepared to pay almost any price to keep Britain in the European Union. I am afraid these hopes will be dashed,” she added.

Instead, Merkel indicated that she would back Cameron’s desire to clamp down on abuse of the EU’s freedom of movement rules when it came to welfare benefits, partially back his drive to rein in the European Commission, and that Britain would have a chance – along with everyone else – to submit proposals for reform when deeper integration of the euro zone happened.

Likelihood of Implementation

If appears Merkel is in favor of changes on Cameron’s wish list item numbers 4 and 5. That’s it. Everything else is as Merkel says “Britain would have a chance – along with everyone else – to submit proposals for reform“.

That means the UK would be subject to eurozone bailouts, funding a European army, inane agricultural tariffs, and even financial transaction taxes at the whim of a majority vote.

Germany and France want more powers, not less for Brussels.

Did Cameron Lose His Mind?

Does Cameron really believe he has any chance of getting what he wants from Germany and France, or is some other identifiable force in play?

What about election carrots?

Election Carrots

Cameron kicked off his Telegraph article with this message: “The British people now have a very clear choice: if you want a referendum on whether Britain should stay in the EU or leave, only the Conservative Party will guarantee to hold one. If I am Prime Minister after the election, I will negotiate a new settlement for Britain in Europe, and then ask the British people: do you wish to stay in the EU on this basis, or leave? I will hold that referendum before the end of 2017, and respect the decision.”

Cameron does not want a vote now, he only promises one after he wins. Of course he might not win. But even if he wins, Germany and France will never agree with his proposals.

Question of Integrity

The likelihood of Cameron getting the changes he wants is precisely zero. Is it possible Cameron does not understand that?

To the extent Cameron is making an election carrot ploy, he is willing to let the UK make a major mistake if it slightly helps his election chances.

If so, that speaks tons about his integrity. Of course, there’s always the possibility Cameron has lost his mind.

I believe both.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock