Biteback, £12.99 Order at a discount from the Independent Online Shop

Au Revoir, Europe: What If Britain Left the EU?, By David Charter

Brutally lucid, this road-map for a UK exit from the Union should sharpen every political mind

Even today a lazy orthodoxy dominates centre-left political thinking on Europe. We assumed that the Tory European interregnum - the gap between bouts of internal Euro convulsion - wouldn't last long. In fact, it lasted six years. David Cameron played the Eurosceptic to win the crown; quitting the European People's Party group in the European parliament sent a clear signal to traditionalists. Yet on gaining the top job, he embraced centre-ground modernisation intent on parking the "nasty party" tag, including its Euroscepticism.

We now cosily assume that this phase ended on 24 October 2011 when 81 Tory MPs rebelled in Parliament in favour of a "people's plebiscite" on Europe. A few weeks later, Cameron stumbled into his veto against the Franco-German blueprint for a two-speed single currency. Full-throttle rewind to right-wing scepticism was the new order of the day - a sign of Cameron's weakness in his party, as captive to the old guard. The old guard is also the new guard; there is no "pro-European" Conservative tradition to speak of anymore.

Tory modernisation has hit the wall. Cameron is trapped; content to play the same old songs, get through the day and await some orderly transition to Boris or Gove. We witness his speech on Europe this week, promising a referendum by 2017, and conclude that the PM is preoccupied with internal appeasement.

Comfortable liberal-left orthodoxy might also tell us that Cameron and his party are on the wrong side of history and consumed by a cancerous internal Euro-savagery. Divisions over the EU brought down Thatcher and Major, alienated potential voters and so created space for our own "one nation" story of patriotic self-interest.

So far, so conventional. The Tory travails are good for us. I pretty much sign up to these conventions. But let's pause and think this through a little. Is it possible that we have fundamentally misread this one? David Charter's book Au Revoir, Europe contests the fundamentals of mainstream centre-left European thinking. What if in 2013 - during the 40 anniversary of the UK joining the European club - we are inexorably heading out? De Gaulle stalled our application for some 12 years, the "joining phase". In so doing he nailed down the Common Agricultural Policy architecture and a blueprint for common fisheries which loaded the dice against the UK.

From 1973, we witnessed an "integration phase" of building the single market. This ended with the collision between Thatcher and Delors, the post-ERM fallout and the Maastricht treaty. While this period saw the creation of the European Union, British opt-outs and the Euro, it also signalled growing divergence and set in train the festering "alienation phase", even under New Labour.

Now we find ourselves forced toward the exit door as, driven by crisis, economic and institutional reforms build a "real European Union" anchored around a Euro core. Britain's options shrink between a "second-tier" membership or a "Brexit". Cameron ratchets up the possibility of the latter with talk of an undeliverable repatriation of powers. Why might he do this?

Charter – European correspondent of The Times – confronts these issues with quite remarkable prescience. His analysis of the gravitational pull in each of the main political parties is spot-on. Through a careful dissection of what went wrong, he asks how and when we might exit, and what the shake-down might look like. In short, for him, the roof will not fall in.

The origins of our gradual exit are found in the irreconcilable tension between Edward Heath's foolish promise of no consequential loss of sovereignty and Jean Monnet's belief in "neofunctionalism" - ever-more sharing of powers, given the benefits of such transfers. Pro-Europeans never recovered from this basic conceit. Incrementally, this forged a "British trajectory defined by opposition and exceptionalism".

It is this weaving-together of the original tensions around sovereignty and the moves toward referenda that sharpen Charter's belief in inevitable exit. He posits that the end-game will be played out with the prospect of a new treaty. Cameron's holding pattern is of repatriation, and membership of an outer tier. The "Fresh Start" group of Tory MPs assumes a looser renegotiation given a new treaty. Charter studies areas ripe for such reform and the stumbling-blocks: structural funds, financial services, social and employment law, legal jurisdiction and criminal law.

There appears little or no chance: recent history does not bode well while our isolationist stance means we have no allies. So, he tacitly suggests, is not the real agenda for the Fresh Start group, with their impossibilist demands, to act as a Trojan horse for eventual exit? Is this the real sub-text to Cameron's speech? Failure to repatriate will intensify the grounds for divorce through growing populist disquiet.

Having carefully raised problems with alternative models that forestall full withdrawal - such as the Norwegian or Swiss options - the author then offers an insightful sectoral analysis of the economic implications of withdrawal, alongside the political forces that could precipitate precisely this conclusion.

The last chapter tracks back from a hypothetical British application in 2023 to join NAFTA, the North American free trade agreement. It charts the critical path to exit following the 2017 referendum driven by a 2015 Tory manifesto commitment, grudgingly matched by Labour. Election defeat did for Cameron. The new Leader of the Opposition – B Johnson - rode the "no" vote. The 51.4 per cent to 48.6 per cent victory of the "outers" broke the back of the Labour government. Britain's subsequent free-trade agreement with Brussels took 18 months to deliver while Parliament struggled with the additional workload in trade, agriculture, fisheries and the like. The UK and Brussels muddled along. Paradoxically, the zero-sum economic environment ensured that they were to stay closely intertwined, irrespective of the referendum outcome.

This is a shockingly coherent book. It ascribes a logic to what, from the outside at least, appears degenerative Tory thinking. For pro- Europeans - about whom the author states "only the scale of their defeat remains to be settled" – it implies that with Cameron's speech, we have begun another interregnum leading to the 2017 referendum. The honest assessment is that the mainstream of the Conservative Party want out. We now have under five years to rebuild a pro-European case from first principles. This book is a brutal contribution to a consideration of the options that this country now faces.

Jon Cruddas MP is co-ordinating the Labour Party's policy review

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders