Cameron’s return from Brussels with his agreement on ‘special status’ for the UK reminded me of the old story about the trade union negotiator who came back to his members and told them that he had good news and bad news. “The bad news,” he said, “is that I haven’t been able to get us a pay rise. In fact, I’ve had to agree to a pay cut. But the good news is that I’ve managed to get it back-dated.”
Cameron seems quite pleased with himself for having got a deal in which he’s not only not achieved what he set out to achieve, but if we believe what he says, he may well have succeeded in reducing UK influence on key decisions in the future, by placing the UK outside the inner circle, as a sort of ‘half-member’ of the EU. Thankfully:
· ‘half-membership’ won’t be on the ballot paper for the referendum – if it was, it might be something that I’d have real difficulty supporting, and
· he’s cynically misrepresenting what he’s achieved.
He might want to present it, for his own political ends, as being a step halfway out, but the reason that the other 27 have agreed it is that it’s a lot less significant than that. Does anyone really believe that they’d agree to a whole new class of membership applied to one state only and still allow that state to have the same amount of clout in decision-making as the others?They’re happy for him to present it as he wishes, but they probably suspect that they’ll be able to row back even on what little has been agreed after a change of government in London at some future date. That would be entirely in line with the long-standing pragmatism of the whole institution.