Has May reached her Cameron moment?

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Oh, how we’ve so easily forgotten what happened in Westminster only a few short years ago. Is Theresa May’s tenure about to end?

We all know how one chapter ended: David Cameron held a referendum in 2016, and walked out of Number 10 shortly after, seeing that Project Fear had failed spectacularly. But what led him to that point, and what has this got to do with Theresa May?

© Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

Cast your mind back to 2015. David Cameron had just won the general election giving the Conservatives a comfortable majority on a manifesto to give the people of the UK a referendum on EU membership. Everything was great, the Tories were back in full power after the coalition with Cleggers and the Lib Dems, but the question on holding the referendum remained: When?

This is where the similarities between Cameron’s and May’s premierships begin to take shape, and we see that the same strategies are unfolding again.

David took issue with leaving the EU from day one, so he decided to travel to Brussels in an attempt to renegotiate Britain’s terms with the EU. On his mind: immigration, migrant benefits, and ever-closer union.

Meeting with the cherry-man himself, Donald Tusk, they thrashed out some proposals Cameron had put forward, to give the UK a ‘special status’ in the bloc.

What was asked for, and what assurances did he receive?


Cameron wanted the UK to opt-out of the EU’s intention to create an ever-closer union between its member states in a legally binding way.

The EU ‘understood’ that different member states way not want to head towards the same goal, and gave the UK an assurance that when the treaties were next updated, providing 55% of member states didn’t disagree with the special status, this could happen. If 55% did not agree, this thread of the deal would be vetoed. It did not provide the assurance that the people or Parliament required.

Migrant benefits:

In the manifesto, the Government wanted migrants to have lived and worked here for at least four years before they were able to receive any child benefit or tax credits. He also wanted to stop claimants from sending money back home. In fact, one part of the manifesto wanted EU migrants not to be able to claim Jobseekers Allowance at all, and would be required to leave after six months out of work.

The EU decided that this was ‘okay’ though the time limit on any restrictions would last only seven years, and not apply to those already here. On child benefits, new claims were restricted, and current claims could not be restricted until 2020.

Cameron failed to ban workers from sending taxpayer’s money back home.

The Euro:

Cameron wanted the EU to recognise Sterling as another method of currency, as it was clear that the Euro had been given special status within the financial union. Cameron also wanted the UK to stay away from failed Euro bailouts.

Nothing changed. In fact, he met strong opposition from France on financial regulation.

So despite all the promises in the manifesto to do all these things, Cameron failed because the EU said ‘no, it’s our way or nothing’.

Sound familiar?

The referendum was then held on a failed deal, and Cameron left office, leaving Theresa May in exactly the same situation, trying to get a deal with those who have no intention of doing so, whose only goal is to continue their own path, while still wanting our 12% of the budget without any say in anything.

This would leave us at a regulatory and financial disadvantage, with no reason for the EU to ensure sustainable competition between member states — though one could argue that this is currently the case as we are not part of the Euro.

We’re left with one question at the end of all of this: Will Theresa May survive the pitfalls that befell Cameron’s premiership by trying to push ahead with a failed agenda, or will she listen to the Eurosceptics in the Party and do the sensible thing; leaving on WTO terms or pushing for Canada+?

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