Richard North, 16/11/2014  

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When last June Booker predicted that the EU's bizarre choice of Jean-Claude Juncker as its new Commission president would leave it in an even "worse mess than David Cameron" (who had just been outvoted on the appointment by 26-2), even he could not have foreseen how quickly this would blow up in the faces of all those responsible.

The revelation that, as his country's prime minister and finance minister, Juncker presided over a colossal tax-avoidance scam worth hundred of billions of euros, all at the expense of the EU's other members, is bad enough.

Even worse, his insistence that he should personally preside over the Commission's inquiry into a scandal in which he was so intimately involved must surely have left him, as "the most powerful man in Europe", holed irreparably below the waterline.

But Mr Cameron's own recent reckless suggestions that, unless the EU changes its treaty rules to limit immigration to the UK, this will push us ever nearer to the exit, yet again highlights just how utterly confused and empty his own policy towards "Europe" has become.

Even more bizarre is Philip Hammond's idea that the British government can negotiate a "stretched definition" of existing EU treaties and thus impose immigration quotas without going for a treaty change. This is part of the fantasy politics that is turning the Conservative party into a laughing stock for those who are not trapped in the parallel world of their making.

Mr Hammond's plan will last as long as it takes for the ECJ to over-rule his "stretched definition" and put him right back where it came from. But, when it comes to stupidity on issues European, it seems there is no cure for "senior conservatives". They seem determined to play this out to the bitter end.

Yet, like Sir John Major, Mr Cameron tells us how determined he is that Britain shall remain a member. Out of the same "fantasy box" is his hope that, if re-elected next year, he can somehow negotiate a new relationship with the EU that he can put to an "in-out" referendum no later than 2017.

This is now more pie-in-the-sky than ever. Not only has he been told by almost all his continental "colleagues", including Mr Juncker, that such a deal, inevitably requiring a new treaty, is simply not on. He shows not the slightest sign of having read the Lisbon treaty, which lays down such cumbersome procedures for any new treaty that they could not possibly be concluded before his 2017 deadline.

There lies the trap that the Conservatives and their hangers on have created for themselves. Unable to finesse their way to a new treaty, they are now constructing a grotesque fantasy world – the last despairing throw of a group that has lost touch with reality and it trying to grope its way towards the sunlight.

Staring them in the face, however, is the only conceivable way in which, under the rules, Mr Cameron could get the kind of deal he wants. This is by invoking the treaty's Article 50. It is this alone which could, firstly, force the "colleagues" to negotiate with him and, secondly, give him what he says he wants: for Britain free to continue trading with the Single Market as now, without much of its accompanying political baggage.

The tragedy for Cameron (and us all) is that he can only invoke Article 50 by saying that Britain intends to leave the EU. And that is the very thing his pride - and the grotesque legacy of "one nation Conservatism" cannot contemplate. He is thus fatally impaled on a hook of his own making.

It seems that our prime minister, for as long as he remains in office, is doomed to remain forlornly in a land of his own creation, as isolated as Mr Juncker, with no more than a make-believe game-plan which fails to touch reality in any way.

And about this, Booker and I have been writing for years. But until Mr Cameron and his own colleagues come to grips with reality, we will all continue to be trapped in this grotesque charade until, finally, it destructs of its own accord. By then, though, we will probably be on our way out of the EU.


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