EUROPE: Opening up a can of worms

If a week is a long time in politics, then what will the three-and-a-half months to the referendum on the EU be like? Methinks it may feel like an inordinate age.

Saturday, 12th March 2016, 5:00 am

This time last year, all the political commentators were saying that there was no chance whatsoever of Britain voting to leave the EU.

Mind you, those same commentators said that before Trump could be a serious contender for the presidency of the USA, hell would have to freeze over, with cats on the ice throwing snowballs at each other.

As I understand it, at the last election, the Prime Minister promised that he would negotiate lots of reforms for the UK from Europe, and once he had secured those reforms the electorate would vote at a referendum to stay in the EU, and this would put an end to all those who want us to leave.

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In effect, Mr Cameron said he would go to Europe and come back with a full roast Sunday dinner, with all the trimmings, for us.

As it happened, all the individual member states, and the EU as a whole, listened to him and then burst into laughter, telling him not to be so daft.

Unperturbed, the PM said not to worry, that was only the opening gambit and now he would go back with a slightly modified request.

Instead of a Sunday dinner, he merely asked for a bit of Yorkshire pudding with some gravy. Provided they gave him that, he would be able to go back to the people of Britain and say that would be enough for us to vote to stay in the EU.

The peoples of the EU considered Mr Cameron’s request and said “Nah, you’re not getting that”. But, rather that see him totally humiliated, they offered him a single Brussels sprout because that is what they thought Britain was worth.

The Prime Minister came home with the sprout and reviewed his options. He then held up the sprout to the British public and said “This sprout represents a great victory for our country. All you have to do now is to vote for this sprout and to stay in the EU at the referendum and we will cement our position as a major power in Europe”.

As it happens, the sprout and its importance have been largely forgotten. In its place, we now have various politicians and business people saying what would happen if we stayed in, or left the EU.

Now, in the last few days, we have a German company writing to its British employees saying if they vote to leave they may well not have jobs in the future. We also have one man who said we might be better off if Britain does leave the EU and is promptly suspended from his job.

What has, of course, happened in the last 12 months, which will have an enormous outcome on the referendum, is the one-and-a-half million refugees now in Europe and looking for a new home. Thankfully, no one has so far made an issue of this.

However, it remains the elephant in the room and figures hugely in the media every day.

How sad would it be if a nasty incident in Europe involving the refugees just prior to the date of the referendum decided its outcome? I hope dearly that would not be the outcome, but fear it will be, and cannot think how it can be avoided.

Oh, Mr Cameron, what a can of worms you have opened.

Mel Shaw,