At a Commons debate ahead of the European Council meeting, one Eurosceptic MP suggested that negotiating within the EU was like the deals that the British pre-war prime minister Neville Chamberlain did with Hitler.
The comment was, I would guess, deliberately and wilfully offensive. Ironically it set my mind thinking and I have come to the conclusion that in fact it is the Eurosceptics themselves - not our EU partners - who have an unquenchable appetite for concessions. They will take Cameron's Khrushchev-like banging of his shoe on the conference table much as Hitler absorbed the Sudetenland...thanks very much but now I want more.
The brief moment in which David Cameron will be allowed to bask in Eurosceptic sunshine after he picked up his football and sulkily walked off the Brussels playing field will soon pass. He may have been praised by anti-Europeans at Chequers over the weekend, but there are already reports that 'emboldened' Eurosceptics will demand more.
This goes to the heart of the Conservative problem with Europe. Any scare story or half-truth is like catnip to them. They'll believe any old rubbish provided it knocks Brussels; you'll find a few examples debunked here. Their problem is that they work themselves up into an anti-EU frenzy, foaming at the mouth in ecstasy at the idea of taking to the trenches to defend the ounce as a unit of measurement, then they do nothing about it - tease and denial (don't google that, by the way). I am sure it's this wrongheaded strategy that created Ukip, who now drain votes from them at the European elections and may even have cost them a majority at the last election.
It is a problem because Cameron has no intention of leaving the EU, and that isn't down to having to keep his Lib Dem coalition partners propping him up, it's because he knows that leaving the EU would leave the UK not so much like Switzerland with nuclear weapons but rather like Norway without the oil. Or, in the words of deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, reducing us to pygmy status in the World.
The Tories are approaching a moment of decision. It is 20 years since Europe consumed the Major government, now it threatens this one too. Europe is like an infection that still hasn't cleared their system. No antibiotic works, not even the penicillin of coalition. They must surely have to decide: do they make their peace with Europe and accept it, warts and all, or do they follow the logic of their propaganda and head for the exit? Increasingly I think that the latter is the option they will and should take. Nothing else will sate the appetite of the Eurosceptics. Maybe it would even trigger a referendum and we can settle this increasingly tiresome argument once and for all.
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