Every one of the changes for which Cameron is arguing in Europe will make both the UK and the EU worse. It is undoubtedly true that these reforms are marginal, and not in any sense worth the drama with which Cameron seeks to imbue them in the run-up to a pre-cooked mainstream media acclamation of significant victory. But even though Cameron’s proposals are highly marginal, and all possible without treaty amendment, insofar as there is any effect, it is a bad effect.
Cameron’s primary focus is on preventing much needed regulation of banking and financial services. He wants a veto in what is currently recognised as a qualified majority area. The banking system is at the heart of the channelling of most wealth to a tiny elite. 70% of all the money in the world is tied up in derivatives markets, which is terrifying. Deutsche Bank holds derivatives equivalent to 21 times German GDP, to give a striking example. There have been continued attempts by the EU to introduce a transaction tax on every derivatives bet, as a move towards calming this market. Cameron is determined to make sure the City of London remains a great casino, safe for his banker mates. That is the primary question at issue today.
The other issues involve Cameron’s attempts to pander to xenophobes by putting a brake on in-work benefits and child benefit to migrants. This is economically insignificant. It affects less than 40,000 people in the UK, and in the case of child benefit would only bring a marginal reduction anyway. It is simply an effort to join the Duncan Smith stigmatisation of the low-paid to racist sentiment.
I wish to state loudly that I believe that the existence of the European Union with a common citizenship, where we all enjoy the common rights of citizens, from Bucharest to Dublin, is a marvellous thing. It is undeniably the greatest political advance of my lifetime. As a continent with a free flow not only of people, but of trade and capital as well, it is a fantastic field of economic potential. As the political expression of the wonderful civilisations of the European nations, it has the capacity to be a force for good in the world, and is so more often than not.
I look forward to ever closer union becoming a reality, and the day when the EU encompasses all of Europe, including Russia. I look forward to Scotland being one of the nations within a federal European structure, contributing to a common foreign and defence policy. I fully expect these things to come to pass, while Cameron and his charade of renegotiation will be long forgotten.