Iain Dale draws attention here to one "story" resulting from a recent interview given by the Chairman of the Conservative Party, Francis Maude, to Jonathan Sheppard of Tory Radio.
Arthurian Legend has another story from the same interview.
Let me make this clear. I've never met Francis Maude, but I've listened to what he has to say on a number of matters relating to the internal organisation of the party, and as far as I can judge, he's doing a difficult job well. On a personal level, I have nothing against him. He seems like an OK guy. And I appreciate that he doesn't set policy, and has to defend the "party line". But his defence of certain issues just doesn't hold water at all.
Every month or so, the Editor of Tory Radio, Jonathan Sheppard, puts a number of questions to Francis Maude in a podcast entitled "Challenge the Chairman".
Arthurian Legend challenged Francis Maude, with the following question:
David Cameron has repeatedly stated that taking back the "Social Chapter" powers transferred by the UK parliament to Brussels will be a top priority concerning our relationship with the EU.
Since those powers are now enshrined in Art. 136-145 of the EU Treaty, which can only be given back by unanimous agreement, how will he do it?
This is the answer that Francis Maude gave in the interview that can be downloaded here.
FM: Well, it has to be done by negotiation. Um, these, but as a newly elected government we will have a lot of negotiating leverage".
Hmmm indeed. What negotiating leverage?
David Cameron to the Council of Ministers: We want to take back these powers.
President of France, Chancellor of Germany, Prime Ministers of Belgium and Italy: No. The UK will gain a competitive advantage if it does that. It will mean businesses are more likely to locate in your country than in ours. It will damage European solidarity. You are being awkward. You English, You Conservatives always want the same thing. Wanting to go back to the past. Not wanting to be a full part of the European dream, always dragging your feet, not wanting to be part of a single Europe.
David Cameron: Oh. Well, that's not fair. I told people I would get these powers back.
Rest of European Council: Tough.
David Cameron: Hmmm....
Francis, we ain't got any leverage without playing HARDBALL. Any I mean playing dirty. Like threatening to withold our £9 billion annual contribution. Or leaving altogether.
But what if they said, "OK, leave". Would DC agree? Would he be prepared for that? Would he have put in the groundwork to prepare the country for it? Would he have got all the plans in place for such an eventuality? I don't think so.
So what is the point of making this promise if you aren't going to do what is necessary to fulfill it? To try to keep the "euro-sceptic right" on-side? To get elected? OK, but if 84% of laws in Germany stem from the Council of Ministers in which Germany only has a formal 8% say (and a similar situation pertains in the UK), what is the point of getting elected? All that hassle, and you can't even run your own country?
Helen Szamuely mentions the launch of the new Global Vision campaigning group here.
Global Vision is aiming for a wholesale renegotiation of our relationship. Much more than what Francis Maude envisages. But the major sticking point is how we are going to achieve it - whether it be the restoration of UK sovereignty in one area, like the "social chapter", or in every area? Helen comments:
"But can their own plan be put into action? The launch had its share of Tory MPs, all of whom congratulated Global Vision on its brilliant new approach and, sadly, its share of friendly skeptics. “Devil’s Kitchen” asked how they were going to persuade the political elite of this country. Lord Pearson pointed out that there was not going to be another major constitutional treaty negotiation, as a good deal is coming in through the back door and the remaining treaty will be too small to make an impact. Anyway, he added, what can we do with our veto while the "enhanced co-operation" is in place?
Representing the Bruges Group and EUReferendum I decided to take part in the discussion as well, asking Lord Blackwell how they were going to persuade 26 other member states to agree to Britain acquiring that different relationship. It seems from his lordship’s reply (supported, I am sad to say, by Martin Howe QC) that this would not present too many difficulties as they would understand that a new relationship was in everybody’s interest."
I think it not unreasonable to suggest that nothing short of the "nuclear" option will achieve anything that Eurosceptics wish for. So far, there is no hint in the Cameron camp that they have appreciated this, even for their limited ambitions.
I wonder, when will they?
N.B. It's a shame that Jonathan Sheppard doesn't use the oppotunity he has to press for some more detail when given less-than-convincing answers...Or perhaps he takes the Andy Marr to Gordon Brown approach of not wanting to scupper the chances of getting the next interview by declining to remove the pin from the hand grenade that Arthurian Legend or some other awkward character lobs in to the trenches...
"Once back here I got to thinking - 'how do I get out of this?' Perhaps the really haunting spectre is that I would have to turn my back on the lake, and the prospect of the sword." Alan Clark, Diaries - 19th May 1999