Richard North, 16/12/2012  

Booker 000-nor.jpg

In what will be a series of pieces today, we will first look at Booker's report on Cameron's attempt to duck the issue on Norway and the EEA. Mind you, perhaps we shouldn't bother. Elsewhere, Myrtle is telling us that "almost no British Eurosceptic is proposing that we copy Norway".

But how typical that is that Myrtle should put himself at the centre of the known universe. People who don't think the same as himself barely exist. In Hannan's putrid little world, only the views of a relatively small number of like-minded politicians matter.

In an alternative reality, however, when David Cameron is not busy with his plans to allow one woman bishop to marry another woman bishop, he tells us – with the aid of a rather tasteless joke about tantric sex – that he is going to make a very important speech in the new year about Britain's relationship with "Europe".

The indications are, says Booker, that he will promise a referendum giving us a choice between leaving the EU (which Mr Cameron totally opposes) or supporting his hope, expressed again in Brussels on Friday, that we can negotiate a "looser" relationship, in which we continue trading in the Single Market while divorcing ourselves from much of what the EU stands for.

There is not the slightest sign that the EU would be prepared to engage in such negotiations, unless Mr Cameron invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would legally compel our European partners to do so. But this he cannot do, because the Article 50 process can only be set in train by a country saying that it wishes to leave the EU.

Despite this being the only realistic way he could get the kind of relationship he is after, he rules it out, saying that if we were to leave we would still, like Norway, have to obey all the conditions of the Single Market, without having any influence on how they are decided.

Thus we have once again the dismissive old cliché about "fax democracy", with Mr Cameron not realising that the phrase was coined by a Norwegian prime minister who was vainly trying to persuade his countrymen to join the EU.

This allows Booker to point out to a wider audience that Mr Cameron appears not to grasp is that countries such as Norway in fact have considerable input into drafting the rules of the Single Market, through their membership of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA), the European Economic Area (EEA) and a range of UN and other international bodies from whom many of those rules initially derive.

The ultimate irony is that, if the UK, outside the EU, were to become a member of EFTA and the EEA in her own right, it might well have considerably more influence on Single Market rules than it does now, as one of 27 EU members with only eight percent of the votes.

It is one of those modern tragedies that, if Mr Cameron played his cards right, he could have all that he says he wants. The trouble is that he wants to remain in an organisation whose rules he shows little sign of understanding. He is thus in danger of leading us towards a referendum that, in terms of what it might actually achieve, would be wholly meaningless.

And in any such referendum, Mr Hannan would be bleating about his own version of reality, oblivious to the wider world. He and Mr Cameron deserve each other.


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