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Monday, 1 February 2016

“You can go your own way!” Cameron’s mega blackmail gamble might blow up in his face, as he either could unwillingly lead the United Kingdom to the exit of the European Union or totally lose his own credibility.

Tell me why
Everything turned around
Packing up
Shacking up is all you want to do

These first months of 2016 are the months in the eve of the British national referendum upon the UK’s membership of the European Union. That referendum, which was officially announced by PM David Cameron in 2013, is now hanging above his head as Damocles’ sword.

When I just browsed through my old articles tonight, it seemed that the British referendum was an almost unavoidable fact-of-life since 2011, when ‘rogue’ Tory MP’s were pushing the envelope in the House of Commons for it. Perhaps, in order to save his political bacon, Cameron thought that he was obliged to organize such a gamechanging event in 2017.

And in a way it is good that the British population now has the chance to speak up about the European Union and whether they want to share their common future with the EU or want to be separated from it forever(!).

As I argued before in the aforementioned article, perhaps all countries in the whole European Union should even have the chance to renew their wedding vows with respect to the EU, in order to prevent the EU from becoming a loveless marriage of partners ‘that stay together for the children’.

However, what I don’t like in the way in which PM Cameron is organizing the road to the British referendum, is the obvious blackmail of the European Union that he has done, in order to force the EU into accepting a number of British terms and conditions, that would otherwise have been seen as ‘unnegotiable’.

His message to the other EU members was very simple: accept my terms and I will ask my fellow countrymen to vote in favour of the EU membership. Refuse my terms and I will ask them to vote against the membership. There is no other word for that than blackmail:

No matter how you call this, it is political blackmail: “Do as I tell you, or my country will run away”. This would be a license for the British to change the EU towards their own image. Did somebody ask how the other 270 million European citizens think about that?!

Many Europeans are already sick and tired of the German yoke upon the EU and will go definitely short on the EU 2.0, that David Cameron has in mind: a free trading zone with all the benefits for the British and no burdens, aka an egoistical EU.

And those terms and conditions are not minor ones that are easy to accept, but a number of very intrusive changes that collide with the core structure of the Union as we know it.

And so David Cameron – who is allegedly an advocate of the EU membership – is playing a massive gamble with the membership of the European Union. As that is how it will turn out for him: 
  • Gamble 1: Cameron gets what he wants from the EU and advices his citizens to stay in the EU. The Brittons follow his lead. 
  • Gamble 2: Cameron does not get what he wants from the EU, but the British population wants to stay in the EU anyway. 
  • Gamble 3: Cameron gets what he wants from the EU, but the population does not listen to him and votes in favour of a Brexit anyway.
  • Gamble 4: Cameron does not get what he wants from the EU and he successfully endorses a Brexit towards his population.

This would lead to the following results:

In case of gamble 1: Cameron is the glorious winner of the gamble and he wins a set of privileges and concessions from the EU that is truly unprecedented, while maintaining the unity in the British Union.

This is the win-win situation for the United Kingdom, but an enormous loss of face for the EU and a definitive proof that the floodgates for political blackmail by other member states are wide open.

However, all other possibilities pose a losing situation for both PM David Cameron and the European Union as a whole. 
  • Gamble 2: Britain votes against a Brexit, which would be ‘good’ for the EU, but Cameron has lost the last bit of credibility within and outside his country and the European Union as a whole. The only thing that he can do in this situation is resign, as nobody will take him seriously anymore. 

  • Gamble 3: In this case both Cameron and the EU suffer from severe loss of face. Cameron clearly loses his credibility and influence, as the Brittons blatantly do not listen to him and his advices anymore. He also can’t do anything else than resign, in this case.
    • The EU on their end shows that political blackmail is a winning option and loses its face too in a very harmful way. 

  • Gamble 4: The EU does not lose face and so doesn’t Cameron. For the rest everybody is a loser in this situation, as a Brexit is then inevitable.

In other words: both gamble 3 and 4 have a Brexit as ultimate result. And please be aware of the following: the consequences might be severe for the UK!

When the UK will have left the EU as a consequence of Cameron’s referendum, after a long and difficult period of untwining that might last for at least 5 to 10 years, the United Kingdom will be on its own outside this very union. And so will the British people be.

Perhaps the largest difference between the UK and other non-EU countries in the European Economic Space or Switzerland is, that the other countries have never been a member of the EU in the first place. They have always followed a path of cohabitation with the EU, without ever being a member of it. However, the UK has been a – reluctant – member of the EU for the last 45 years; a member which has profited from its membership to the fullest, against a substantial reduction in expenses in comparison with other leading members.

I personally think that the UK will be seen by the other EU countries – and perhaps even the USA - as a mutineer, who left ship and betrayed his allies. The UK’s political loneliness might be very palpable in the not so distant future, just like the shockedness and flabbergastedness of the other ‘sailors on the European ship’.

Yet, at this moment David Cameron is still aiming for the outcome of gamble 1 and his attempts might more or less succeed, as the following snippets of this excellent FD article by Rik Winkel prove:

Tuesday, President Donald Tusk will come with new proposals for the British situation.

On Tuesday President of the European Council Donald Tusk will lay proposals on the table in order to keep the British within the EU. According to the chairman ‘good progress has been made during the last 24 hour in the negotiations with the British, but there are still questions to be solved’.

The Pole paid a visit to Downing Street on Sunday. After a relatively short dialogue with PM David Cameron, both parties informed the media that another day of talking would be necessary, before Tusk would formulate his proposals.

These are about the boundaries of the agreement that Tusk will deploy at the European Council assembly of 18 and 19 February. When this plan succeeds, Cameron could ask the British citizens whether they would like to remain a member of the EU, based upon these new agreements. The date in mind for this event is the end of June, 2016.

The proposals of Tusk are not much more than the foundation, based upon which the 28 EU-leaders will negotiate later this month. The preparations for these negotiations start later this week in Brussels, with conversations between the so-called sherpa’s, the personal assistants of the leaders.

A spokesman in London stated this Sunday that Cameron has enabled a breakthrough in his desire to short welfare payments to EU labour migrants for a period of four years, immediately after the referendum. The European Commission refused to confirm this statement on Monday.

The president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, said this Monday in Strassbourg that an agreement with the British would offer a chance to the EU-leaders to show that the future of the European project is firmly at their retinas. ‘A solution that would sturdily anchor the United Kingdom in the EU and at the same time allows the Eurozone to further integrate, would enhance confidence’, according to the Italian in the European Parliament.

With this remark Draghi points at one of the most difficult questions in the negotiations, the relations between the nineteen Eurozone countries and the other nine EU member states. Cameron wants guarantees that the Eurozone will integrate only without harming the rest of the internal market – read: the City. The Eurozone countries are apprehensive of a British veto upon measures, that they deem necessary for the survival of the Eurozone as a whole.

I hope that the proposals by Donald Tusk will be nothing more than a sign of good will of the EU and not the preliminary to serious changes in the structure of the EU on behalf of the British. However, the fact that Cameron has raised the flag with regards to some serious commitments being made by President Tusk, with respect to EU immigrant workers and their rights to receive British state benefits when necessary, might show that the worst has yet to come in the negotiations regarding the British blackmail.

As I said earlier, Gamble 1 would be an enormous victory for David Cameron, but a dangerous loss of face for the EU, as it would turn serious political blackmail into a reality for the EU.

On top of that, the aforementioned remarks by Draghi and especially the accompanying explanation of Rik Winkel show the dangerous possible consequences of the current British blackmail gamble and the desperate situation in which the whole EU resides at this very moment.

Once the EU gives in to the British by granting these guarantees to Cameron, the UK will continue to do anything (and more...)  to keep the strenght of the City intact, by using its vetoes against necessary Eurozone integration anywhere it can.

The alternative for this, however, is simply ignoring the British demands and hoping for option (gamble) 2, while taking the risk to get gamble 4. And even when gamble 4 would play out – a Brexit – the Eurozone might actually be better off than with the British inside the team.

One should remember that one of the main reasons that the Eurozone has been such a toothless tiger during the last five years, was the negative influence of PM Cameron upon the negotiations.

Cameron will do everything for the city, as it is the economic cork on which the whole British nation floats, even if the City’s interests collide with the interests of all other countries in the European Union. And Cameron will do and allow nothing that could weaken the City’s position; for instance by allowing further Eurozone integration to happen, like Draghi wants.

This is the reason that Draghi’s words are in fact futile and rather based upon hope and make-belief than on sound judgment of the seriousness of the situation regarding the United Kingdom.

The longer I think about a possible Brexit, the more I feel that it could be the best for both parties in the end, unless... the British population decides to choose for an unconditional and broad ‘No’ against a Brexit with at least 65% of the votes. Then we will welcome the UK ‘back’ in the EU, as unconditional and loyal members. Otherwise Cameron’s blackmail could turn into a drama with only losers at both sides.

And therefore, perhaps even the best solution is that the UK follows the lyrics of the famous Fleetwood Mac song: “You can go your own way!”

In the early part of this article, I said that it would perhaps be a good thing when the whole European Union would once have the possibility to speak out about the future of the union. However, at this very moment the ubiquitous nationalistic and anti-European feelings in the whole European Union are running so out of hand, that a broad referendum about this particular question would probably mean the end of the EU as we know it. 

And that would be the sad end of the best thing that has happened to Europe in a long, long time... In spite of all its obvious drawbacks and serious issues.

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