EUROPE. Why is it that brain-freeze afflicts me every time I write that word? Maybe it’s the complexity of our relationship with the EU. Perhaps it’s because David Cameron talks so much about Europe without achieving anything you can poke with a stick.
Whether the prime minister’s latest deal is something to flourish with pride or merely a tattered compromise is open to interpretation this morning.
Anyone flicking through the newspapers for guidance will come away with a headache.
Most of the headlines make play of the ‘you’/EU line, the best being the Sun which, beneath a strapline reading “Our deal turns to face” has “Who do EU think you’re kidding?”, with David Cameron morphed into Captain Mainwaring. The PM will love the way his increasingly flabby face is such a good fit for that role.
According to that newspaper, Cameron has achieved little if any of what he wanted, with his demands on benefits, laws and borders all being rejected.
In short, the paper says, the deal “stinks”. Perhaps it smells of Camembert – or even, more curiously, of Cameron-bert, a new and unpalatable Euro cheese with a thin cheddar casing and a squishy French filling.
The Daily Mail is no keener, using the headline: “The great delusion!” The paper admires David Cameron but says that “on the EU, his capacity for self-delusion is breathtaking”. Only on the EU? Self-delusion is that man’s middle name, thanks to his ability to change his tune about anything and everything.
Cameron will find little succour, unexpectedly, in the Eurosceptic Express (that might almost be the venerable tabloid’s new name). “Cameron’s EU deal is a joke” the headline reads, and you can almost see it flecked with furious spittle.
The Independent goes for a gentler, more sophisticated line, although still calling on the title of the TV show: “Deal or no deal?” A footnote reads: “You decide. Full text of the draft agreement inside.”
I rather like this approach and will adopt it myself. Go on, you decide. Whether we should stay in Europe is both massively important and, unfortunately, almost wholly boring. It is also impenetrable in a sense, as whatever happens the only people who really care are the extremists, usually those spittle merchants on the right; although, to be fair, the left has its Europe-haters too.
Much of the newspaper coverage is too skewed to help, especially those in the anti-brigade.
From the more ‘sensible’ newspapers, The Guardian draws up a list of “bold comments and pledges” made by the prime minister since 2009 – heavens, does that take up the entire newspaper? – including limiting the European Court of Justice’s jurisdiction, reversing the working time directive and reforming the Common Agricultural Policy. The draft plan delivers “only a handful” of these aims, according to the paper.
The Daily Telegraph looks back to Harold Wilson’s declaration in 1975 that he would not “pretend that we got everything we wanted” but that he’d secured “big and significant improvements”. Unlike Wilson, the paper says, Cameron “refuses to accept that he has got anything other than a great deal”.
The prime minister must have been on the same self-delusion tablets that George Osborne swallowed before boasting about his pitiful tax arrangement with Google.
The Times points out that the agreement was drafted by the EU chief Donald Tusk and says this reveals that: “Mr Cameron has approached it from the start as a supplicant, not a true reformer”. Only the Financial Times suggests that Mr Cameron “looks set to secure a reasonable deal for Britain”.
So there you have it; or there you don’t. Who knows. Deal or no deal? I don’t know about anyone else, but in the end I will vote with my gut. And at the moment my gut is leaning towards Europe, but maybe that’s just be the way I am sitting.