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Europhiles get the jitters as anti-EU talk gains momentum

    Ken Clarke and Ed Miliband speak up for Europe as  all signs point to the Tories taking a populist right turn

 

 

ColumnLAST UPDATED AT 11:22 ON Mon 19 Nov  2012

THE biggest Europhile in the coalition government, Ken Clarke, Cabinet  Minister without Portfolio, has warned this morning that it will be a “disaster”  for Britain if it leaves the EU.

Ken’s warning on the Today programme came as Ed Miliband, the  Labour leader, warned that Britain risks “sleepwalking out of the EU” if the  Eurosceptics take control of the Tory party.

What has caused this sudden bout of twitchiness among the Europhiles?

Answer: the prospect that David Cameron will go to Europe this week and act  like Margaret Thatcher by vetoing everything in sight when the European partners  seek to agree a big inflation-busting budget increase for the next few  years.

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, urges his old Bullingdon Club chum in his  column in The Daily Telegraph this morning to don the Thatcher  dress:

“It is time for David Cameron to put on that pineapple-coloured wig and  powder blue suit, whirl his handbag round his head and bring it crashing to the  table with the words no, non, nein, neen, nee, ne, ei and ochi, until they get  the message.”

The other factor which has got the Europhiles worried is that Cameron is  about to confirm that he is hiring Boris’s Australian election guru, Lynton  Crosby, as his supremo for the Conservatives’ 2015 general election  campaign.

Crosby is notorious for having masterminded one of the most right-wing  election campaigns in living memory – in 2005 when Michael Howard was Tory  leader. They ran a ‘Save the Pound’ campaign and called for strict curbs on  immigrants.

Crosby’s appointment will confirm the worst fears of some modernisers in the  party who believe it will signal a lurch to the right to stop the rot after the  humiliation of losing the Corby by-election. They have already warned that by hiring  Crosby, Cameron is kissing goodbye to his modernising instincts.

Crosby is at heart a populist. He is certain to push Cameron to make lower  taxes, immigration and a referendum on the future of Britain’s role in Europe  the focus of the Tories’ 2015 campaign.

Today, David Davis, another right-winger, who has chosen to stay outside the  Tory tent after losing the leadership race to Cameron, will repeat the demands  for a referendum on Europe.

The big difference between Davis and the Tory high command is that he wants  it before the next general election. And the big increase in votes  for UKIP in Corby – not to mention the Observer poll showing 56 per cent of British voters are  in favour of quitting the EU – suggests that many former Tory voters agree with  him.

To hold their line, Cameron and Crosby could be forced to concede the UKIP  demand for an ‘in or out’ referendum on Europe after the general election. That  could allow an election pact, under which UKIP would agree not to stand in seats  where they would split the Tory vote.

Whatever happens in Brussels this week, Crosby is going to make sure that Ed  Miliband will be proved hopelessly wrong in his rhetoric. There is no question  of the Tories sleepwalking out of Europe – on present form, they could be  shouting it from the rooftops. Wheteher David Cameron, who personally favours  Britain remaining in Europe, likes it or not. ·

Read more:  http://www.theweek.co.uk/politics/50162/europhiles-get-jitters-anti-eu-talk-gains-momentum#ixzz2CggLeeUq

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