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Bernard Jenkin’s letter is just the start – renegotiation will expose every Tory division on Europe

13 January 2014

2:38 PM

13 January 2014

2:38 PM

Straight after David Cameron’s speech last January committing himself to renegotiation and a referendum, I asked one Tory minister what he made of it. He chuckled and said that Cameron must be planning to stand down after the next election. The point behind this joke was that renegotiation and the referendum itself would expose every Tory division on Europe there is. Once the renegotiation was under way, he argued, it would no longer be possible to gloss over the fact that Cameron means something different by renegotiation than much of his party.

William Hague’s reaction to the Bernard Jenkin letter, which has been doing the rounds of Tory backbenchers since before Christmas, has begun to expose these divisions. To the Foreign Office, Hague and Number 10, the backbencher’s demands are simply incompatible with EU membership.


Those close to Hague have been clear for a month now that they regard the letter as essentially ‘outist’. But that hasn’t been enough to stop, as The Sunday Telegraph reported, 95 MPs signing it.

This whole episode is another reminder of just how difficult it will be for any Tory leader to keep the Tories even vaguely unified come the referendum campaign. But the more immediate danger for Cameron is that Tory MPs start asking more and more questions about the renegotiation plan and are more and more disappointed by the answers. This combined with the European elections in May could lead to a bout of Tory in-fighting over Europe with less than a year to go to the general election.

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  • ColinW

    It is so much fun to see the idiot Tories tearing themselves apart over the EU once more with the General Election approaching.

    Voters love divided parties.

  • Eyesee

    You are aware that the only renegotiation planned by the EU is the introduction of a new Treaty by the Eurocrats, to start the final process to bring about a ‘United States of Europe’ as they class their attempt to create a Marxist based superstate? That renegotiation of membership is strictly forbidden as is handing powers back once taken. People have fallen for the line that the EU is a benign, democratic construct whereas it is built on the solid foundations to allow a dictatorship. This is why the likes of Mandelson say that the people cannot have a say, yes because they would vote against the EU but mainly because the whole idea of ‘the people’ having any say on anything is, in the minds of the EU elite, simply absurd.

  • James Strong

    Some numbers and some simple arithmetic would be very helpful here.
    How many Conservative MPs are there?
    How many are on the ‘payroll vote’?
    How many does that leave in the remainder?
    95 of that remainder is very significant indeed.
    And it’s more significant still when considering that some of the remainder, unfortunately we don’t know how many, will be aspiring to join the payroll vote, so will have avoided signing the letter.
    With a bit of fortitude the Conservative MPs could change the leadership’s poloicy, or change the leadership.
    Then put a government Bill, not a Private Member’s Bill, for an in/out refrendum on EU membership, it would be scuppered by the LibDems and Labour, and Hey Presto – clear blue water to go into the election campaign. And I would bet a LOT of money that it would then be a comfortable election win.

  • Kitty MLB

    Renegotiations !
    Why ? The whole EU project was a failure, the EU is a dying elephant that should be put out of its misery, It is incompetent, greedy, does not represent the people of Europe. Its about time we had a divorce. The EU is aware that Cameron
    does not want to stay, he also has the other three parties helping him, as well as the leftie dominating establishment of this country, Merkel has even said herself
    if one country wishes to renegotiate, then they all will.
    If the promise of a referendum were not a lie then it would have been held at the beginning of the next parliament, and not at some date, 3 years away, depending on Cameron winning an election.

  • Daniel Maris

    Either Bernard Jenkin is very stupid or he thinks the British electorate is very stupid…or both. I vote for both.

    • HookesLaw

      He is certainly very stupid. Its the usual thick 95 suspects who want to see the tory party defeated at the next general election.

      • monty61

        Hooky that’s not only plain wrong it’s grossly disrespectful to a group of genuine Conservatives who just happen to disagree with your views. They are also representative I’m sure of the majority of the remaining Tory membership (those who haven’t left since Cameron took over).

        • Daniel Maris

          Yes but your group of “genuine Conservatives” are doing the equivalent of saying the Government can outlaw rain. It can’t. Or rather it can, but it will be ineffective.

      • Two Bob

        You are an insult to my favourite brewery.

  • Will Rees

    “incompatible with EU membership.” how incompatible with associate membership? Given that’s what will probably end up having the referendum on in 2018-9

    • HookesLaw

      The point is that will have to be negotiated first. It hardly makes sense to leave the EU first and then knock on the door to try to get back in from a position of weakness. The way the Eurozone countries will have to work together will mean a new relationship for us. That can be negotiated by 2017 and we can have a referendum.
      ‘Associate membership’ is what Norway has and it obeys single market rules and incorporates free movement of labour and is in the Schengen Area. It pays into EU structural funds. Switzerland does the same thing.

      What 95 thick toty MPs are not willing to admit is that the EU will not go away and we will have to have a trading relationship with it. There will be little difference to being out of the EU and in it.

      On this basis and for so little difference they hand over great gifts to all their political opponents. Totally thick.

      • Will Rees

        Associate members will be those outside the minimum of 14 member states who don’t adopt the treaty that grows out of the document I linked to by about 2018, and we can’t stop them doing that.

        Negiotiating by 2017 is an impossible pipe dream, though having a referendum then, ahead of the treaty referendum of 2018-9 might lance the boil and make the second one actually about the actual treaty

      • an ex-tory voter

        Norway and Switzerland have seats at the World Trade Organisation and the UN Commitees which determine the international trading realtionships. They are therefore able to argue in their national interest.
        The UK on the other hand has no such seat, we are forced to accept whatever compromise the EU agrees on behalf of all EU nations.

        Norway and Switzerland are outward looking and engaged with the global marketplace. The UK is inward looking (towards the EU Single Market) and disconnected from international trading agreements.

      • Two Bob

        Calling them thick wont win your case. Grow up.

      • Smithersjones2013

        Your argument is nonsense. Hague said:

        He told the Murnaghan show on Sky News: “If national parliaments all around the European Union were regularly and unilaterally just able to chose which bits of EU law they would apply and which bits they wouldn’t well then the European single market wouldn’t work.

        Every other nation is planning to join the Eurozone if it hasn’t already. Why are they going to make accommodations for the UK in whatever the next stage is? Wouldn’t that be exactly the sort of unilateral arrangement that Hague now says is “unrealistic”? Surely the same argument (that of both Barroso and now Hague) applies?

        You can’t have it both ways. Either the EU is open to unilateral negotiations or it is not and by all accounts it is not. So Cameron and Hague need to stop lying and come clean.

      • Smithersjones2013

        On this basis and for so little difference they hand over great gifts to all their political opponents. Totally thick.

        Not really. They were smoking out the “vermin in the cereal barn”. After Hague’s appearance yesterday I’d say they’ve succeeded.

      • chesterwriter

        According to Tim Oliver’s study “Europe without Britain” Norway chooses to implement most EU directives, whereas Switzerland does not, but instead tailors its own national rules to best suit EU regulations. So this idea that both Norway and Switzerland are somehow compelled to adopt all EU legislation, regardless of whether they like them or not, would appear to be completely without foundation.

      • ButcombeMan

        I do not think you understand how Article 50 works.. We do not HAVE to leave, we are a member while negotiations go on.

      • global city

        They can veto everything that they do not like.

        The problem Norway has is that their political class are desperate to join the EU, which says a lot really…. but the people don’t.

        The elite work like Tony Blair did, ‘Europeanising’ as many things as they an get away with in the hope that one day the people will become stupid… they won’t.

  • sfin

    This is precisely why the promise of renegotiation, with the results put to a referendum should be seen for what it is – a lie.
    Renegotiation of the terms of membership are impossible under the European constitution (the same constitution that was rejected by the voters in France and Holland, but was renamed the Lisbon treaty and not put to the vote). Cameron knows this and he also knows that the only thing he can do is evoke article 50 and withdraw.
    This is all merely politicking – a device to try and stave off UKIP, who are set to grab an enormous share of the Tory vote.
    It won’t work. We have been lied to enough on Europe. The whole subject causes in party faction fighting across the political divide and undermines the governance of this country.
    We need a referendum, and we need it now.

    • HookesLaw

      You are a good examplke of what happens when hysteria overcomes reason. Why is the promise of a referendum a lie? You will get a referendum and you and the rest of us can vote as we see fit.
      You also admit that UKIP’s purpose is to take tory votes and let in a Europhile Labour govt.
      It is UKIP who lie when they say leaving the EU would in any way be different. It would not. No one will vote to leave the EU if it means leaving the single market – it will end our share of European inward investment for a start and put us outside the EU tariff wall – and being out of the EU and in the EEA will mean abiding by single market and labour market rules.

      • sfin

        Ooh! Plenty wrong there…
        I did not say that just the promise of a referendum is a lie. I said the promise to renegotiate our terms of membership, and put the result to a referendum, is a lie – big difference. I then qualified my opinion by stating the fact, that under current EU rules, renegotiation is impossible.
        I did not state that it was “UKIP’s purpose to take tory votes and let in a Europhile Labour govt”. UKIP’s purpose is to take votes period (they are currently targeting Labour in the north of England) – one could argue that, in Eastleigh, it was the Tories who cost UKIP the seat.
        I, for one, would be quite happy for us to participate in the single market as members of the EEA. We are a net contributor to Europe and it simply cannot afford not to do business with us. I just don’t want an, unelected, eurocrat telling us that we can’t deport undesirables or control our borders.
        So not hysteria – quite reasoned, I think.

      • Two Bob

        You are an example of what happens when you seal yourself off from grassroots support. How do you know ‘noone will vote to leave the EU’ my god you sound as extreme as the people you have positioned yourself against. You wont win support back by having a go at them.

      • JackyTreehorn

        It is so tiresome when people use the loss of trade threat when trying to convince us that we should not leave the EU. It’s simple economics, we buy more from than we sell to them. Do you honestly think they would cut their noses to spite their face? Mind you you might be right, EU fanatics aren’t noted for their sagacity.

        • global city

          in addition, the maximum tariffs allowed by the WTO would add pennies to most traded good to and from Europe.

          We must remember though that the EU issue is far greater than the trade issue. Focusing on trade was a Heath tactic done in order to blindside the population to the democratic consequences of what was always a political project advancing toward ever closer union.

          8% of our national economy is with the EU, despite years and years of energy and treasure expended on hooking us into it.. it is utterly insignificant.

      • ButcombeMan

        Your childish arguments, yes childish, about being outside the tariff wall are beginning to jar. It is hysterical nonsense.

        The UK is a huge market, a rich market and after an Article 50 declaration we will have enormous clout to stay inside what tiny tariff wall still exists. The EU will want to sell to us, some of the EU might still want to have some access to our fishing grounds.

      • global city

        He didn’t actually say that though, did he?

        But… let’s take your assertion as a given, that UKIP will take lots of votes from the Conservatives? well, added to the votes they are taking from Labour and the Lib Dems on top of the votes they are getting from people who have been inspired to vote again for the first time in deades, that adds up to a serious electoral wedge.

        Tories better start thinking about the prospet of a oalition with UKIP as their only hope of running the country ever again!

        What would that do for the Tory grandees to sell us to the EU for a seat for themselves around ‘the big table’?

      • chudsmania

        China is outside the eu tariff wall , and does rather a lot of trade with eu countries , and still abides by said rules. And Chine is free to conduct trade agreements with whoever it likes. Unlike us.

    • ButcombeMan

      Article 50 is the only way.

      Cameron is duplicitous. He knows that..

      That is why I will no longer support him

  • DaveL

    Surely Direct Democracy is the only answer? More localism and more referenda give each MP the information needed to take a stand.