Wednesday

20th Jan 2021

Opinion

Cameron's unclear narrative

  • Just over 200 days to go to what will probably see the closest general election result for 40 years (Photo: Adolfo PM)

The British commissioner Designate, Jonathan Hill, has now passed every test bar one, the vote in plenary.

Since the relevant European Parliament committees have agreed his candidature, Hill is, at the time of going to press, as safe as he could hope to be.

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Hill is a moderate, centre-right politician. From a Labour MEP's perspective it looks as if British prime minister, David Cameron, hoped that placing the pro European in this central role would in turn alleviate some of the strained relations which exist between the UK and the European Union largely due to Cameron's negative behaviour.

Hill is not only positive about the EU but he has also been given a top economic portfolio. Quite how Cameron managed to pull that one off may remain a mystery forever.

This powerful position may be seen as European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker attempting to keep the UK on board. It has not, however, stopped Cameron’s negative approach to the European Union causing long term damage.

Cameron's narrative is unclear and his approach to Europe is ambiguous, hostile and too often aggressive.

With just over 200 days to go to what will probably see the closest general election result for 40 years, Cameron’s position towards the European Union remains, at best, errant.

For over four years Cameron has made the UK look like an annoying younger sibling, constantly harassing the EU to get its way and stomping its feet and issuing empty threats of an exit when it fails.

EU too busy to help Cameron

Indeed the French prime minister Manuel Valls said on Monday (13 October) that the EU is too busy “tackling eurozone economies to help David Cameron claw back powers from Brussels”.

As Valls said there are bigger concerns and the union is rightly preoccupied with tackling weak growth and high unemployment to overhaul its treaties and change the terms of Britain’s EU membership.

Valls warned: “opening up the EU treaties would be ‘perilous’ and unpicking the right of free movement of people would be ‘to call into question the very basis of the EU’.”

Sadly Cameron's main concern has been to try and pacify his eurosceptic back-bench MPs.

In doing this he has alienated himself, and more importantly sections of the country from the European Union. He has been incapable of showing leadership over Europe causing Tory defections to Ukip, who are currently surging in the polls.

Cameron further damaged the UK's reputation in Europe when he left the main stream centre right group (European People’s Party) in the European Parliament to form the European Conservative and Reformist Group (ECR).

This move, designed purely to gain Cameron votes in the Conservative Party leadership election, simply served to marginalise the UK and alienate the European People's Party in particular.

It doesn't do Britain any favours to appear marginalised in the EU, and the rise of the UK Independence Party has done nothing to improve the UK's reputation.

Hill may go some way towards restoring Britain's position. Witty and affable as well as having the right credentials, he will, I hope, be up to the job.

The author is a Labour MEP for London

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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