Doom-mongering: European question continues to divide government

As both campaigns go negative, reports on the conflicting arguments put forward by prominent Conservative figures

Cameron's deal on Britain's reformed membership of the EU has failed to win over his critics in government. Image: European Parliament

The PM’s deal on Britain’s reformed membership of the EU has failed to win over his most prominent ministerial critics. Image: European Parliament

Recently, David Cameron announced that a referendum on whether or not we stay in the European Union will be taking place on Thursday 23rd June. At present, politicians of all stripes have declared themselves to be supporting “In” or “Out” (no-one’s spoken out in favour of “Shake It All About” yet, but the debate’s still young).

Cameron himself’s on the side of “In” – as a result, he’s been preparing for his second attempt at trying to hold a union together in the face of a referendum. After two days of intensive negotiations in Brussels back in February, he managed to ensure a package of changes to the UK’s membership of the EU, which will immediately take effect as soon as an “In” vote manages to pass.

Perhaps the most important of these is an explicit commitment that the UK will not be part of an “ever-closer Union” with the other member states. Further changes include a readjustment of child benefit sent back by parents to children overseas, which will be modified to reflect the cost of living in these countries, and a new “red-card” system, where 55% of national parliaments could agree to block or veto a commission proposal. The pound will also remain, and targets have been established to reduce bureaucratic “red tape” in key sectors of industry.

It’s also been argued that other EU member states would have a vested interest in ensuring the first country to leave the EU failed

The Prime Minister’s also been using his podium in the spotlight to his advantage, talking to voters across the country. He argues that leaving the EU would be a “leap in the dark”, and that the inevitable result would be an arrangement like Norway’s or Switzerland’s. These countries have to obey EU regulations when trading in the single market, but as non-members, they have no say in making the rules.

It’s also been argued that other EU member states would have a vested interest in ensuring the first country to leave the EU failed, and that it might be all but impossible to get back in again. France has already suggested it would end border controls at Calais while opening its doors to British-based banks wanting to stay in the bloc.

Iain Duncan Smith has claimed the open border has left the “door open” to terrorist attacks

But though some famous Eurosceptics from the Conservative Party – Theresa May, Phillip Hammond, Oliver Letwin – have followed David Cameron’s lead, others have decided to speak out. Boris Johnson, the other right-wing politician with funny blonde hair who’s been in the news as of late, claims that Britain will have no bargaining power in the EU ever again if it forfeits its chance to escape from the “economic doomsday machine”.

Iain Duncan Smith has claimed the open border has left the “door open” to terrorist attacks, and that leaving would enable Britain to have greater control over which migrants enter the country. Other sceptics have argued that as the fifth largest economy in the world, the rest of Europe would have to make a new deal with us based on free trade, since they need us – or, rather, our consumers.

At any rate, expect the portents of doom, cries of independence and gesturing at the unknown to continue up until June. Currently, it looks like the race is the “In” campaign’s to lose, but there’s still a few months left for the “Out” groups to turn things around.

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