Well, the much heralded visit of Angela Merkel has come and gone – and one can only presume that journalists and the political pundits are extremely busy this evening wiping egg off their faces. We have been informed by some that she would be throwing open the door for Cameron to have his ‘renegotiation’, while others informed us that she would be slamming that door firmly shut – in the event she did neither, informing us very early on in her speech that both would be disappointed.
What we had, in effect, was what may be termed a typical ‘EU fudge’ speech, one talking about the need for a more competitive EU; that any reform would follow the normal step-by-step method (aka mission-creep); and more importantly that the four freedoms were not, per se, up for renegotiation.
On that point about the four freedoms, it was interesting to note that, practicing what is now the norm, statistics were issued today, under cover of the Merkel visit, detailing the levels of immigration.
Official statistics showed net immigration to the UK was 212,000 in the year to September, up 58,000, which is a long, long, long way from the “tens of thousands” promised in the Conservative Party manifesto – and subsequently. Merkel was kind enough to suggest to Cameron that she could work with him on changes to the freedom of movement rules – but only in relation to benefit claims; while also stating that the fundamental right of labour to move freely would most definitely not be ‘on the table’.
Another unfortunate consequence of Merkel’s speech – and obviously not one Cameron intended – was the fact that it showed the uselessness of the Coalition’s Balance of Competences Review in that (a) they are so skewed in favour of EU membership as to be worthless; (b) Cameron has yet to put any demands on the table; and (c) most of the ‘demands’ for which he wishes he ain’t going to get – let alone discussed.
All in all, one thing becomes clearer by the day: (i) the longer Cameron continues this fiasco of maintaining he will hold a referendum in 2017, knowing as he must that with treaty change coming that date cannot be met, the more ridiculous he and his policy looks; and (ii) while politicians, especially Conservative politicians, continue their misinformed comments and remarks – coupled with their failure to acknowledge the elephant in the room (flooding?) the more ridiculous they look, too.
As an aside; if we as taxpayers have to foot the bill (which we no doubt have) for what was obviously going to be a non-event from the outset, should we not have been asked whether we agreed in the first place?