Initial thoughts on Cameron’s speech

It looks like today will mark the beginning of two political campaigns. The first is for the next general election, as Cameron announces a key plank of the Tory Party’s manifesto. The second is for the referendum we have long been promised. It is true that the issue has been much debated, but now is the time to start fleshing out the arguments in favour of leaving, and dealing with the great many practical issues which will arise come that glorious day. As the EU Referendum blog noted recently, there are hundreds of treaties to which Britain is party, due to its membership of the EU, which will need to be pored over to discover what will be necessary for Britain to function outside the EU.  We have had a little taste of such problems in the disputes between Alec Salmond’s SNP and the Commission over the status Scotland would have vis à vis EU membership, if she became independent of the UK.

The issue of a referendum will certainly have an impact on the next general election, but what kind of impact will depend on how Labour and the Lib Dems react.  In the 2005 election, we saw how Labour nullified the Tories’ advantage by also promising a referendum. This removed the issue from the debate, and by the time Labour betrayed their promise and cancelled the referendum, there was nothing anyone could do but howl in outrage at such perfidy.

The other party which will be greatly effected is UKIP.  If the Tories are promising a referendum, voters who would otherwise have supported UKIP will be under great pressure to support the Tories one more time, and if the day comes for the referendum, then it could be argued that UKIP achieved its primary goal. Certainly the pressure from UKIP has forced Cameron’s hand.  However, between the next general election and now, there will be a Euro election, in which UKIP is likely to do very well, and Cameron’s promise need not change that at all. Indeed those voters who swing between these two parties have just as much reason to support UKIP in 2014, in order to make the point very clear to the Tories that they need the UKIP voters on board.

As for the Lib Dems, not much need be said. They can swing either way in this debate, as is clearly illustrated in the old party leaflet in which Nick Clegg demands this very referendum.  The party has always proclaimed itself to be deeply pro-Brussels, but it sometimes pays lip service to democratic principles. So, whether or not it decides to back a referendum being held, we know which side it will support in the referendum.

Finally, I wonder what will be the impact on our own nascent libertarian movement, if today’s speech marks a significant mile-stone?  In recent times, many libertarians have joined UKIP, in the hope that the party would develop into a predominantly libertarian party, and no doubt because of the close affinity between libertarians and the right-wing which grew up in the long, dark years of Labour mis-rule.  However, with Cameron’s promise of a referendum, he may just have shot the UKIP fox, in which case;  where does this leave UKIP’s libertarians?

As the title notes, these are just my immediate thoughts, but something just happened in British politics which may lead to new alliances and alignments, both within political parties and without. From the above, it is no doubt clear that I am wholly in the pro-independence camp with regard to the EU, but I am aware that not all libertarians feel the same way, or do so with less emphatic commitment.  The recent brouhaha within UKIP has strengthened my belief that libertarians need to develop their own political identity in British politics, even if at any given moment or on any particular issue such a force would find itself closely aligned with another, perhaps larger political group.


  1. In the grand scheme of things, Britain’s membership of the EU or otherwise ought to be merely a one of many concerns to Libertarians, It should probably not be top of the agenda. The EU is just one layer of the state, and I reckon there are another 3 or 4 which have a more perfidious influence on our lives and liberties. We must be careful that we do not get dragged into the EU issue at the expense of all the other issues we care about. Yes, let’s be involved – but let’s not end up like UKIP expending all our energies on this and ending up as a one-issue movement.



  2. For me exit from the EU is key to us encouraging more freedom from the State.

    However, recently people seem to have forgotten the economic woes of the EU. I’m still relatively confident that the euro will collapse or at least force countries like Greece and Portugal out of the union.

    But we shall see.



  3. After some thought, I’m not sure he’s done anything except make a prediction. He’s committed us to a referendum on major treaty changes already and there are definitely major treaty changes coming, probably between 2015-2020. These changes are such (for as long ago as his recent veto) that our current status within the EU will not exist for much longer. That means a referendum on a future treaty could not be on whether to accept or reject a new treaty. It has to be new treaty or no treaty.

    The only significance I can see here is that he’s pre-empted it because he’s getting whipped by Ukip.

    Add to this the fact he’s going to lose the next election and we will have a Labour government stuck with a referendum lock (which they will try to remove) and people getting more and more angry all the while, possibly even during some major EU financial catastrophe.

    I don’t think we’re going to get a referendum before 2020 (or until the next Labour government gets hounded out early). I am happy about this because I don’t think we can win a referendum while the government (and loads of EU money) campaigns against it. Come 2020, a re-united Conservative party (including much of Ukip) might hold a referendum and back an OUT vote?



  4. I was deeply unhappy with Cameron’s ‘cast-iron’ pre-planned deception over a referendum, and the extremely transparent way he went from being a pro-referendum Eurosceptic whie in opposition to a referendum-blocking Europhile when in power.

    The ONLY reason he has made this promise is because he sees UKIP preventing him from winning the next election, and he believes he will be able to deceive Eurosceptics once again into voting for him, which makes me doubly determined not to!

    I believe Cameron is a LibDem in Conservative clothing, and I will be voting UKIP and encouraging everyone I know to do the same!



  5. It’s too early to say if the speech will have any great effect. It’s very widely seen as a cynical ploy, but as it’s so far ahead still, it may not do a lot to keep the Tory Party together. Even those who intend to vote Tory in 2015 have no particular reason to stick with the Party for the time being. Those long-standing Tories who have shifted to UKIP may, for all I know, become bitterly anti-Toriy, as is a psychological response. In which case, they will never go back, but would rather perish in mutual destruction.

    As for how much of a priority this should be to libertarians, I see it much like Rob. It’s not like libertarians are forcing the agenda. If there is to be a referendum, and the issue is going to finally be put to the British people, I think libertarians should try to play a constructive role in the debate, which from my point of view means contributing to the sensible side of this business, in working out what the implications will be of leaving, as EU Referendum blog are doing, along with various bloggers such as The Boiling Frog, Autonomous Mind etc.

    Farage said something interesting the other day, indicating he wants to go after Labour’s voters for a change, which is good strategy I’d say.



      1. I don’t quite accept that characterisation of UKIP, but taking your point, you must bear in mind large parts of the labour core vote is a long way from its Hampstead / Islington leadership, in terms of outlook. A populist, British jobs for British workers type appeal would work for a proportion of them, and the old Labour Party was always dead against the EU. I’m not predicting great success, I don’t know, but it’s conceivable.


      2. I wonder what the appeal of Labour is to the working people of England. Over the last 10 years, they removed the lower level of tax, imported thousands of poor people to undercut your hourly rates, and constantly improved the lot of the lame and lazy over the workers. My personal thought is that ‘Labour’ is not at all representing the British worker.

        A lot of them see the EU as taking their jobs, taxing us beyond belief, and destitute South / Eastern Europeans taking their jobs and cutting the rates. They can’t bring themselves to vote for the Tories, so in desperation they voted LibDem last time.

        Surely, if the media ever honestly reported UKIP policies then every past and present fishermen, farmer, factory worker, soldier, anyone who works and lives in a poor area that no longer feels like home – would vote UKIP?

        I once handed out leaflets for UKIP about 3 years ago. I was worried, because all the papers were saying how everyone wanted to be in Europe and I felt ready for abuse. I was truly amazed at the reaction, working class people shouting support across the street, people coming up to me and asking for more leaflets to give away, saying ‘you are the only ones who stand up for Britian. Many, many people were saying at the time “I would vote for you but you have no chance”.

        I feel a tipping point has been reached – UKIP cannot be ignored any more, the media now has to interview Nigel and report his responses – even in the deeply Biased BBC. If the Lib Dem protest vote goes to UKIP that will be enough for now. I don’t care about anything else, I trust the British to run Britain, and if there is devolution I trust the English to run England, we just need to stop these crooks in the big 3 parties from enslaving us to Brussels.


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