The election of Boris Johnson is sending shivers down spines across European capitals. In his young days as the European correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, he became known for writing eurosceptic pieces such as ‘Europe My Part In Its Downfall’ which did much to help build the early British eurosceptic movement. The memory is enough to limit European enthusiasm for his becoming Mayor of London, it seems.
From Mark Mardell’s Euroblog – A beaming new Boris smiles out and salutes from many a European newspaper, but I don’t think they are giving his victory the space that they should.
Some of the international media have their own particular take, like this in the Azerbaijan press: “Boris Johnson is Turkish-origin British. He is great grandson of last interior minister of the Ottoman Empire Ali Kemal.”
But it’s not Boris’s origins but the omens that matter to Europe. (Full article HERE)
He is feared, not only as his euroscepticism is well known, but also because his selection as Conservative candidate for Mayor tends to indicate that Cameron too is a determined eurosceptic. With the Conservatives riding 18 points ahead in the polls, and with Labour in free fall, the arrival of Boris as Mayor is inevitably concentrating European minds on the Cameron question. What kind of European will Cameron be?
The answer is that no one is yet sure.
He famously told Angela Merkel that ‘we would make better neighbours than tenants’.
What did he mean by that?
The form of Cameron’s euroscepticism so far is certainly not that of a withdrawalist. He will be leading the Conservatives out of the EPP next year in time to form a new grouping in the European Parliament with the following objectives in mind..
Don’t just think of it as leaving the EPP writes Dan Hannan MEP,Think of it as what it really is: leading the crusade for reform in Europe. Let me quote David Cameron again: “I want to apply the modernising approach that I am bringing to the Conservative Party to our approach to Europe. I want us to be the champions of change, optimism and hope in Europe as well as Britain. It is time for a Europe not of deals but of ideals. So we say to the moderate mainstream, who are not satisfied with the EU as it is today: come and join us – we have a future to fight for.” Hard to disagree, no?
As Dan Hannan MEP points out, the new grouping will be the first time there will be any opposition in the European Parliament, and it might become possible to influence the course of events in Europe.
I guess Cameron will be in a strong position to either change the EU into something worth belonging to, or if he has tried hard and failed to make progress, he could then reasonably proceed from a role as a reformer into becoming a withdrawalist.
To my way of thinking, it will have taken four years to leave the EPP and form the new grouping. That might be followed by a Parliament (UK) of trying to make it work – and then if good results are not forthcoming, there could be a move towards withdrawalism after the next election, which might take place in 2015.
The timetable would be set for Britain to withdraw by say 2016 or 2017 with full popular support for such a move. Events might accelerate the process, if for example the Euro began to collapse, or if international events created a major split. But with Cameron and Boris Johnson leading the way, Britain seems at last to be moving in the right direction.
In the meantime Cameron will face a raft of propaganda from the British media if he presses too hard or quickly on the eurosceptic front, such as this picture accusing him of wanting to ‘take Britain back into the dark ages’ from the Daily Mail. No wonder he has to proceed slowly, and ensure all bases are covered. His first objective after all has to be to win power.