Below a note on the so-called ‘Review of Competences’ report announced by the Government on 23 July 2013
David Cameron is caught in the dilemma of serving his party which rejects Europe and leading a state whose high officials and business leaders do not want risk a rupture. There has been a endless tango between the Prime Minister and his followers. Initiatives like quitting the European People’s Party, passing a referendum bill promising a plebiscite on any future sharing of powers with European partners (except on Turkey joining the EU), or finally offering an In-Out referendum are all measures initiated by Mr Cameron to show he is listening to and acting upon his party’s hostility to Europe. He also proposed a ‘Review of Competences’ which was meant to examine if the balance was right between the powers Britain exercised and the powers it accepted Brussels should have. Mr Cameron asked other EU partners to join in this review of competences but other than Bulgaria and Italy which submitted banal obvious statements, the other European countries simply ignored the invitation. Why should Berlin or Stockholm or even Dublin get involved in an exercise which was about internal party politics in Britain? As it happened, the first report of the so-called ‘Review of Competences’, published just after Parliament rose for its summer recess in 2013 so as to ensure no querulous protests from Eurosceptic MPs, turned out to be unremarkable to the point of banality. The report drawn up by Foreign Office officials decided that the balance of powers between the UK and EU was broadly right and did not need major change. This is a clear message from the British state’s official machine that plunging ahead with a referendum that could risk an exit from Europe was not in Britain’s interests. More and more business leaders and even the Japanese government in a remarkable intervention have urged the Prime Minister to stay in Europe. How does he satisfy his MPs, party activists, UKIP voters and the anti-EU press while at the same time appeasing the power-holders in the deep state and business who see the referendum process as too risky? It is Mr Cameron’s dilemma and no-one knows, not even himself, how to resolve it.