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The Battle Lines on Europe Will Be Starker This Week

10/11/2014 15:57 GMT | Updated 10/01/2015 10:59 GMT

The battle lines on Europe will be starker this week. At the week-end the PM and his ally, Angela Merkel, commemorated 1914 and 1989 in their respective capitals. Two now historical dates each marking the beginning and end of what was Europe's 20th century civil war. A generation later, London and Berlin seek the same objectives but with different language as Cameron's need to appease Paul Dacre obscures their unity on the need for rigorous economic and political reform.

Politically, the increasingly jingoistic rhetoric deployed by the government has caused despair with the UK's European partners and consternation in the business community. Ed Miliband, seeing City ground possibly conceded by the Conservatives, will make his pro-European business bid today picking up on the vocal opposition of industry to anti-EU and anti-immigrant electoral positioning. Whilst he will succeed only in accentuating one of his few positives amongst the CBI, slowly business is waking up to the danger of a drift to the brink of Brexit. Scotland to them is not a happy omen.

Others sounded the alarm over the possible ditching of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW). In tonight's vote, Theresa May is holding firm in the face of overwhelming evidence from law enforcement and victims' charities that the EAW is an essential tool and it is to our advantage to keep it in our armour. The fact that a significant Conservative rebellion remains a possibility has required the Home Secretary to deploy a deft Eurosceptic smokescreen to hide her own endorsement. Labour and Conservatives are seeking the same objectives with different language.

But the language is the problem. All English-speaking Europeans read our newspapers and hear our words. The immigration debate baffles them all. Last week's UCL report on migration was helpful in shooting UKIP's fox: using EU migrants as a dog-whistle against EU membership couldn't disguise the fact that EU migrants are net contributors. Robert Peston said that the research shows that "all the net costs are generated by émigrés from outside the European Union", in other words the immigrants we can already tightly control. But the government and opposition seem unable to resist out-Nigelling Farage. This is a failed strategy as, in the words of Obama's strategist John Messina to David Cameron, you cannot keep telling people: "UKIP are right, that's why you need to vote for us."

The common denominator of these two issues is the paradox between seeking an objective and means of obtaining it. Do we want real EU reform or noisy confrontation and self-harming U-turns? Business and allies see a play for the UKIP gallery, only confirming their fears and confusing them as to the 2017 end game.

These stories point to a simple truth, which gets lost in complex and often boring backing arguments. The objective is more important than the language.

Bar EU migrants and see tax revenues plummet and businesses fail.

Block the European Arrest Warrant and watch as the UK becomes the refuge of anyone fearing extradition, a haven for people traffickers and child sex abusers.

Without regaining the initiative, exerting influence and leadership though our allies, sleepwalking out of Europe by rhetorical mistake is a real possibility.