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David Cameron and Alexis Tsipras forget the same thing: Germany has an electorate, too

Far from making David Cameron's prospects for a deal better, events in Greece show how poor the prospects for renegotiation are.

A charismatic and controversial politician is elected with 36 per cent of the vote promising European reform. Our country can't take anymore of this, he says. It's time for change, he says. 

Unfortunately, the other constituent nations of the European Union don't quite see it that way. They have their own problems: the German tabloids are all against a deal. The social democratic parties of the North are worried about political contagion and emboldening their own populist rivals. And Eastern Europe simply doesn't want to play ball. 

For Alexis Tspiras on Greek debt in 2015, read David Cameron on immigration in 2016?

Well, the comparison is potentially a little unfair: to Tspiras. No economist seriously disputes that Greece is not going to be able to pay back all of its debts -  no economist really believes that access to tax credits are the real reason why immigrants from Eastern Europe choose to come to Britain. It's the prospect of work, rather than in-work benefits, that makes Britain's labour market attractive. 

But broadly, the big miscalculation is there: forgetting that given a choice between short-term appeasement of their own electorates and long-term thinking, most politicians will choose the former. The one point in the last German election when Angela Merkel looked vulnerable was over the issue of further Greek bailouts. None of the beleagured social democratic parties - those few that remain in office, that is - want to provide any further signs that voting for a populist party to their left is a better bet. 

Even given the risk of crisis spreading throughout the Eurozone, the incentive for politicians in fiscally-hawkish Eastern Europe and Germany is still to hold out against a deal, although economic reality may force some form of climbdown. Britain's Prime Minister, however, lacks a carrot or a stick: he has nothing to offer the leaders of Latvia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the rest of "new Europe" in exchange for taking away tax credits from their own voters. (Taking away tax credits, Cameron may learn in short order, is not very popular with voters.) 

So, far from making "Europe" more willing to do a deal, the Greek crisis shows just how difficult Cameron's prospects are. He won't even have the IMF's research department on his side. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.