Is Cameron playing fast and lose with the UK’s position in the EU?

One of the more extraordinary features of the debate about UK membership in the EU is that those favouring Brexit consider it a given that the UK public will vote against staying in. The scenario runs thus: Cameron negotiates, Juncker says Non to treaty change, and the British public vote out.

This is political fiction, and on a number of counts. First, there is no renegotiation of the Lisbon Treaty, and no desire at all across the EU to open up that can of worms. It was sealed shut  following the defeat of the EU Constitution  in the 2005 referenda in France, The Netherlands, then Ireland. The Constitution became a Treaty. Renegotiation was never going to happen even before it was announced.

Second, the EU, and Euroland in particular, have more urgent matters to attend to. The world’s largest emporium is growing far below potential, and for all the reasons that opponents of the Euro predicted. The latest attempt to install life into Europe’s economy will open this week, when the ECB will press ahead with its version of “quantitative easing”. But it will do so as a semi federal institution of a semi confederal entity, Euroland, where fiscal matters remain in the the hands of the states. There will be no sharing of risk among Euroland members but each national government will be the sole ensurer of its own debt.

Third, the reasons for the member states of the EU cooperating together remain stronger than ever. The latest reminder has been the assassination of the Charlie Hebdo journalists and staff in Paris last week. All member states face urgent challenges of dealing with international crime, and all in varying degrees have responded to the Charlie Hebdo affair by offering greater cooperation in anti terror operations.

But the major reason why Cameron’s EU referendum pledge is fiction is that, if the referendum were to be held, public opinion leans heavily in favour of staying in. It is therefore a mystery that those favouring Brexit should be so keen on holding a referendum that is likely to go against them. See

Indeed, it is reasonable to argue that Brexiters are turkeys voting for Christmas. If the referendum wee to be held, it would well cement Whitehall’s supra nationalist bent, and leave the UK with a neutered parliament and supreme court, the direct result of Prime Minister Heath’s decision to have the UK enter the European Communities in the way that it did.

The conclusion I take is that the formula outlined in this blog that parliament revisit the 1972 Accession Treaty is by far the simplest. We renegotiate with no- one; we reaffirm parliamentary supremacy; we use the opportunity to devolve power within the United Kingdom; and we move to consolidate the alliance within the EU and beyond with Germany. Germany has the Constitutional Court to hold at bay the supra nationalists at home and abroad; and the UK has the Crown in Parliament, and an updated constitution , predicated on the 1689 Bill of Rights.


About Jonathan Story, Professor Emeritus, INSEAD

Jonathan Story is Emeritus Professor of International Political Economy at INSEAD. Prior to joining INSEAD in 1974, he worked in Brussels and Washington, where he obtained his PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He has held the Marusi Chair of Global Business at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and is currently Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Graduate Schoold of Business, Fordham University, New York. He is preparing a monograph on China’s impact on the world political economy, and another on a proposal for a contextual approach to business studies. He has a chapter forthcoming on the Euro crisis. His latest book is China UnCovered: What you need to know to do business in China, (FT/ Pearson’s, 2010) ( His previous books include “China: The Race to Market” (FT/Pearsons, 2003), The Frontiers of Fortune, (Pitman’s, 1999); and The Political Economy of Financial Integration in Europe : The Battle of the Systems,(MIT Press, 1998) on monetary union and financial markets in the EU, and co-authored with Ingo Walter of NYU. His books have been translated into French, Italian, German, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Arabic. He is also a co-author in the Oxford Handbook on Business and Government(2010), and has contributed numerous chapters in books and articles in professional journals. He is a regular contributor to newspapers, and has been four times winner of the European Case Clearing House “Best Case of the Year” award. His latest cases detail hotel investments in Egypt and Argentina, as well as a women’s garment manufacturer in Sri Lanka and a Chinese auto parts producer. He teaches courses on international business and the global political economy. At the INSEAD campus, in Fontainebleau and Singapore, he has taught European and world politics, markets, and business in the MBA, and PhD programs. He has taught on INSEAD’s flagship Advanced Management Programme for the last three decades, as well as on other Executive Development and Company Specific courses. Jonathan Story works with governments, international organisations and multinational corporations. He is married with four children, and, now, thirteen grandchildren. Besides English, he is fluent in French, German, Spanish, Italian, reads Portuguese and is learning Russian. He has a bass voice, and gives concerts, including Afro-American spirituals, Russian folk, classical opera and oratorio.
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