The Leviathan: Political Cabaret will be holding a Communicating Europe Special next Wednesday on the question : What Happens if the UK Leaves the EU and Should We Stop Them?.
The debate will be held in the Twisted Pepper, Middle Abbey Street, Dublin on Wednesday, November 6th from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. The host is Sunday Independent columnist and broadcaster, Carol Hunt, and the panel comprises myself Minister of State for European Affairs, Paschal Donohoe TD and Political blogger and commentator,Jason O’Mahony. There will be entertainment from Colm O’Regan.
On the subject of the UK and the EU, I wrote this article last January about the call by the British Minister for a full referendum on EU membership.


Cameron’s call on Europe is a dangerous and needless gamble


David Cameron’s call for the British people to have a full say on the UK’s continuing EU membership is a massive gamble and one which could well blow up in his face and that of his and his party. The reality is that there is a no burning desire of the British people for a vote or even debate of this sort. All opinion polls consistently show this: the EU and its condition is not a priority for them. It is a priority, however, for elements of the Conservative party and always has been, a dissident anti-EU sentiment which dogged John Major’s premiership, and divided the party thereafter, often destructively. It was a perspective always kept in check, but now Cameron has surrendered to it, in the face of backbench pressure, and the rise of UKIP, the UK Independence Party, a very small party but which threatens to siphon off Conservative votes. But UKIP, and Tory backbench discontent, has actually grown because of other matters, such as the Conservative party’s move to the centre on economic issues, and on liberal matters such as gay marriage. And the fact that the Tories are in coalition with the Liberal Democrats. So Cameron is throwing shapes on Europe to show he’s tough, and right wing, but in reality he is letting the UKIP lead on this.

Some of the concerns Cameron makes are valid but they are also old chestnuts and have been, and can be, addressed within an EU context. It is true that the EU seems needlessly bloated and that there is a democratic deficit with the people, but there is a democratic deficit between all European Governments and their populations now. Cameron says the single market is uncompetitive, but this is hard to take: the EU has imposed competition and broken up cartels and protected sectors such as with our own pharmacy sector and legal system.


Even arch Eurosceptic Declan Ganley has accused Cameron of himself offering no solutions for reform. He has just thrown the thing open for this vague but potentially absolutist, and even lethal, debate. It is bit of coward’s way out. Cameron says he himself will support continuing EU membership, but he will offer a referendum on it. He clearly thinks he will get more British leverage within the EU by doing this, but it is a highly risky strategy and will rightly alienate other EU members who have been moving incrementally through EU treaties and agreement. The automatic welcome which some Irish commentators have been giving to Cameron’s call are also simplistic. In the current ‘hang em all’ public mood, there is an antagonism to the EU which is understandable but often very glib and unfounded.

These isolationists seem to think that we would be thriving outside the EU as some sort of offshore Switzerland. But who do they think bailed us out?

Let’s face it. We thumbed our nose at the EU, and its regulations, before – during the Celtic Tiger – and look where it got us. Who is subsidizing our farmers, after all? And where did the structural funds come from that built our roads? Granted, the EU could now give us a better break on our bank debt, and that will hopefully come.

Like many Irish, and Europeans, I still have major reservations about the Brussels bureaucracy, but we are way better off being in than out. As is the UK, and Cameron knows that. The tragedy is that the EU, and the UK, would gain so much more if the UK played its full central EU role, but that’s a whole other story