David Cameron yielded to pressure to face the Parliamentary
Liaison Committee on the afternoon of 4th May. The committee Chair
had previously
written
to express disappointment that he did not intend to face the committee.
Proceedings can be seen here.

Following his earlier admonition of the Leader of the opposition
about wearing a suit and tie, Cameron was one of only 2 people (the other being
Crispin Blunt) in attendance not to wear his suit jacket.

Before progressing, it is worth visiting how the committee
system works at Westminster.
Committees are set up to scrutinise government policy. Many committees are set
up relative to different departments such as Health, Education and Treasury. Their
make up reflects the balance of the House of Commons.

Committee Chairs are elected. Committee members go through a
nomination process. Eventual appointment depends on elections where needed but with
horse trading behind the scenes virtually eliminating a contest. They are
effectively chosen by party Whips.

It is worth remembering that the leader of the opposition
was not the choice of the parliamentary Labour party but of party members. The
occasional rebel may slip through but on the whole, the majority of committee
members will reflect official party lines. Therefore, eurosceptics remain in
the minority.

The Liaison committee is made up of representatives of other
committees.

Unsurprisingly, given his performance at PMQs earlier in the
day, Cameron evaded the first questions. His starting point was to claim a successful
negotiation in his recent talks with EU representatives. He identified his
achievement as bringing a “reformed Europe”.

The renegotiation is an additional reason to stay. He
identified 4 issues with the current EU, “too much emphasis on a single
currency club, too much on a political union, too much on our welfare system … not
enough emphasis on growth”.

Bill Cash highlighted that Cameron had promised “a
fundamental change in the relationship which we have with the European Union”. He
also highlighted that “treaty change” had not been achieved and that EU
institutions remained unchanged. In fact, constitutionally, treaty change has
yet to be ratified.

Debate will continue as to whether or not, whether Britain is, or
will be, exempt from “ever closer union”. Cameron describes ours as a “special
status in the EU”.

Meg Hillier asked about funding flows, highlighting that the
Prime Minister’s own advisers said that “things would get worse before they get
better”, before reverting to party political points of calling a referendum
which might upset the status quo.

Ian Wright brought the line of questioning around to trade
deals. Cameron suggested that it is harder to negotiate trade deals as an
individual country. He highlighted how the British economy is service based,
how 44% of our exports go to the EU.

The first thing we would have to do is sort out our trading
relationships with the EU. Full access such as Norway would require similar costs
and are subject to free movement of people. Canada has a good deal but that has
taken 7 years. Do we want to be a “rule taker”? “Any deal is worse than we have
now”. Food is still protected.

“Is business as usual good enough?” “Power passed to Brussels initiates a
referendum”. TTIP is a big deal for Britain. In the steel industry 40%
of Port Talbot output goes to Europe. Britain could
be subject to anti-dumping tariffs on steel.

Can we get better arrangements than we have now? “I don’t
think we can”.

Particularly helpful to Cameron was Neil Carmichael,
comparing Britain’s
prospects in the market to Albania.
Carmichael asked about the 8 economists compared
with reports such as OECD. Minford,
one of the great economists of his generation, arguably behind deregulation
which spurred growth in the 1980s, was summarily dismissed.

According to Cameron, Minford’s views require examination, farcical
reports from the Treasury are authoritative.

Cameron returned to British exports and how they would be
hit in Europe, tariffs of 10% on cars, 30% on
clothes perhaps as much as 70% on beef. Carmichael
made the prospect of 66 new free trade agreements seem daunting.

Crispin Blunt asked “why can’t we negotiate with anyone we
choose?” Cameron returned to the 44% of exports going to Europe.
After Blunt followed up with why wouldn’t we be faster to negotiate on our own,
wouldn’t we be faster? Once again we heard that 44% of our exports go to Europe
with 8% of Europe’s coming to us.

Bernard Jenkin provided some relief, highlighting the questionable
legality of the £9.3m taxpayer funded document sent to households. He followed that
up with suggestions from the Unite trade union that Cameron had compromised
over other legislation over EU support.

Where it suited Cameron, he was sceptical over statistics,
notably when the SNP representative, Pete Wishart, approached the Scottish
situation. Cameron stressed how
passionate he is about the union, apparently nobody else is. Wishart probed
about scare stories, whereupon Cameron produced one more, about 100,000 Stock Exchange
(currently subject to German take over) jobs being lost.

Keith Vaz brought up the question of EU migrant criminals
costing the British taxpayer. Cameron briefly conceded that more could have
been deported.

Frank Field had a brief shot at whether Cameron’s position
would be tenable if Britain
said no. Field followed up with migration figures and prospective Turkish membership,
both of which were glossed over.

The impressive Nicola Blackwood uncovered some fascinating technical
information on intellectual property and EU funding, a point that merits
further investigation. Her questions pinpointed the lack of contingency
planning by Cameron and his government.

The Chair returned to the strength of Cameron’s deal, that
it is yet to be approved by the European Union Parliament. Apparently, the President
of the European Parliament can guarantee which way independent members vote.

What Cameron did is what he did best, as you would expect
from the self-styled `heir to Blair’. He repeated points that he had been
challenged on but not answered. His talent is for spin, as in a recent PMQs
when he stated that increased contributions to the EU budget were good thing
because our economy was growing faster. Documents are “legally binding” even
when they haven’t been legally approved.

So how did he insult all and sundry?

Firstly, he insults the British people by suggesting that we
accept tariffs on British exports lying down. If EU members impose tariffs on British
made cars, clothes and beef, we will not respond by imposing reciprocal tariffs.

He insults EU countries, notably near neighbours. France will accept reciprocal tariffs on
champagne, camembert, Italy
and Germany
on pepperoni, salami and other agricultural products.

On manufactured products, Germany, France, Romania, Czech Republic,
Netherlands, Spain and several others will accept job losses for BMW, VW, Skoda,
Dacia, Seat, not to mention the American producers of some of Britain’s most
popular cars produced by Ford and general motors in other European countries.

He also insults our biggest single trading nations, the USA by belittling transatlantic trading links,
similarly, Commonwealth countries such as Canada,
our fastest growing markets for luxury goods such as India
and China, other suppliers
of meat such as New Zealand
and Australia.

In short, we are a nation dependent on a European Union
whose trade with us accounts for a mere 8% of their trade. Put another way,
were we outside the EU, we would still be the EU’s biggest trading partner.
That 8% is an output from around 400million people.

Our 44% is from around 60million people. Multiplying
through, in cash terms we are more important to the EU than the EU is to us.

Finally, he insults our own civil service, people and
politicians. We are incapable of seeking trade from around the world, the civil
service is incapable of negotiating from a position of pumping £80billion per
year into Europe, British politicians lack the
ability and the will to have a vision for the future.

As a post script, Britain has a proud tradition in Economics.
People such as Minford and Congdon produced schools of thought that underlay
growth through deregulation. They are a huge part of the reason that Britain’s growth exceeded that of the rest of Europe. They follow the likes of Adam Smith and John
Maynard Keynes as innovators.

Ultimately, it is for the British people to decide how
transparent bland repetition of contestable points actually is. We can make up
our own mind as to whether slight tinkering of welfare benefits constitutes “reform”
and whether huge omissions constitute facts.