David Cameron has been a very good Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative party. He has taken the party from being entrenched in opposition to being the majority government. He has led a government which has helped bring an economy back from the brink to now leading the G7 in growth. There is record employment in Britain, the union has been saved (for now), the deficit is being tackled and education is improving. The country is on the right track. Now, however, he faces the biggest challenge of his premiership: renegotiating the UK’s relationship with Europe.
When I say David Cameron is a “very good” Prime Minister, I say that because I don’t think he can be called great yet. Mr. Cameron is a pragmatist and a very good leader. He is very good at putting the right people in the right places, such as IDS in Work & Pensions, Gove in Education and now Justice, Javid in Business, and Osborne in the Exchequer. He did a great job staying disciplined in the campaign and he has done a decent job at achieving reform in Europe— such as the cutting of the EU budget, forming a new Conservative alliance in Europe, and getting Britain out of European bailouts. However, with Cameron there is always a thought in the back of my head that he would rather be hugging huskies, feeding lambs, or handing out foreign aid and free childcare than making tough Conservative choices. I feel like he sometimes has to be “pushed” into decisions like the EU referendum or the no new tax pledge. His pragmatism gives the appearance of being more Salisbury than Disraeli, more Baldwin than Churchill, more Major than Thatcher. However, this referendum will give him the chance to be called great.
This renegotiation and subsequent referendum gives Cameron his chance to go down in the history books as a truly important leader. Unlike some people, I don’t doubt Cameron’s sincerity when he says he wants to negotiate a better deal for the UK in the EU. In many ways, he already has, as Steve Baker MP pointed in his article introducing Conservatives for Britain. But ultimately, all eurosceptics really want from the EU is a free-trade zone. So unless Cameron regains supremacy of the British courts, control over British borders and the ability to negotiate free trade with whomever Britain wants, any powers “won” back from the EU are simply window-dressing. If the Prime Minister gets window-dressing from the Europeans, he must not “pull a Wilson” and try to convince the British people that they are getting a good deal when they are not. The Prime Minister must be bold.
The Prime Minister can negotiate away, but while he is negotiating with the Europeans he must make clear to them that Britain is not at their mercy. Although I was disappointed a concrete British Bill of Rights was not proposed in the Queen’s Speech, I was heartened to hear that the Prime Minister refused to rule out leaving the European Convention on Human Rights. The Prime Minister must “weaponise” this issue with the Europeans. The Prime Minister reminding us of the need for the British Bill of Rights at the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta at Runnymede was a very welcome step. When a concrete proposal is in place, unveiling the British Bill of Rights at Runnymede will serve the purpose of reminding both Britons and Europeans that the British have a long, grand tradition of supporting the rights of individuals. It is the perfect place to fight back against the hysterical and incorrect claims of celebrities and others who think that before European Human Rights were imported to Britain by Tony Blair’s Labour government, Britain was North Korea. It will also show the Europeans that Britain is serious when it says that its laws are supreme to those in found in European treaties.
Furthermore, the Prime Minister should use the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Malta for negotiating new trade and immigration deals with Britain’s Commonwealth friends and allies. This will show Europe that they must accept Britain’s sovereign right to make alliances, trade deals, and immigration agreements with whoever Britain feels like. The Commonwealth are Britain’s natural friends and allies. A “C9” trading bloc of the UK, India, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Malaysia and Nigeria would be a booming global trade force. Britain should make a “C9” deal and let European Bureaucrats know they must accept it. One should always negotiate from a place of strength. The Commonwealth is the perfect organisation to show Europe that Britain does not need a European super-state to be prosperous.
I suspect that even if Cameron made deals with Commonwealth nations and introduced a British Bill of Rights, the Europeans would not give Britain back the rights it is entitled to as a sovereign and free nation. In that case, Mr. Cameron must fight passionately for British freedom and independence from Europe. He must make the case to the British people that the world’s 5th largest economy and 5th most powerful military can make their own laws and decide its own fate. He must remind people of the greatness of Britain’s history and role in the world. He must remind the British people of the true history of their island (not the strange version of the opening ceremony of the Olympics); that they are the nation that brought democracy, capitalism, industry and rule of law to the world, defeated tyrannies from Philip II to Hitler, and that they can have a greater future still.
Mr. Cameron believes in the United Kingdom. Listen, for instance, to his inspiring “Small Island” speech. Now he must take his belief in Britain and lead the country from the declining EU (an organisation Lord Salisbury likely would call a carcass) to retake her place in the world again. If he does succeed, he will be remembered as one of the greatest Prime Ministers of all time. If he succumbs to continental pressure to remain and tries to skew the results in Europe’s direction he might well split the Conservative party and damage not only the country but his own premiership. Remember, there is a certain blonde, eccentric, politician who would probably be more than happy to lead the “No” campaign. If the EU referendum becomes Dave v. Boris there is little doubt in my mind who would win that battle- party members by a margin of almost 2 to 1 support leaving and Boris might be Britain’s most popular politician.
Be bold Prime Minister, take Great Britain out. Britain needs you, and history is just waiting to celebrate you.